Big East to introduce Boise, 4 other new members

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NEW YORK (AP) - The Big East introduced Boise State, San Diego State, Houston, SMU and Central Florida as its new members, effective 2013.

“The Big East conference is the first truly national college football conference,” Commissioner John Marinatto said Wednesday during a teleconference with the university leaders from the new members.

Boise State President Bob Kustra said his school was “proud to be aboard.”

The Big East, depleted by the planned departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, is trying to rebuild as a 12-team football conference with a western division.

Boise State and San Diego State, which currently play in the Mountain West Conference, will join the Big East only for football. Houston, SMU and UCF will be leaving Conference USA and joining the Big East in all sports.

“We have ambitious plans, and this expansion is a great stride toward reaching them,” Marinatto said.

The Big East has also been pursuing Air Force and Navy as football only members, but those schools have yet to commit.

Boise State has reportedly worked out a deal to have its other sports teams compete in the Western Athletic Conference, where its football team dominated for 10 seasons. San Diego State is reportedly finalizing a deal to have its other teams compete in the Big West.

The Big East has only five football members committed to the conference beyond this season: Connecticut, Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers and USF. It also has seven schools that do not play major college football and Notre Dame, which competes in the Big East in everything but football.

Marinatto has pledged to hold Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia in the conference until 2014, in accordance with the Big East bylaws. West Virginia wants to join the Big 12 in 2012 and has sued the Big East to get an early release. The Big East filed a countersuit to keep West Virginia in the conference.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse intend to join the Atlantic Coast Conference as soon as possible, but are not challenging the Big East’s bylaws.

Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said he expected the Big East might ask his school and Pitt to leave early now.

“They’d need us to move out of the way,” said Gross, who was taking part in IMG’s Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in Manhattan on Wednesday.

Marinatto said there have been no discussions with the new members about the possibility of letting the departing members out early. Potentially, that could lead the Big East to have the same eight teams it has now in 2012 and `13 _ even 15 in 2013 if negotiations work out with the military academies.

“I think it’s a simple matter of respecting our bylaws,” Marinatto said of the possibility of having lame duck members. “An early departure and a violation of those bylaws would damage the membership.”

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