Tulane, ECU to join Big East in ‘14, leaving C-USA

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The Big East moved quickly to replace Rutgers and braced for more possible departures, getting Tulane and East Carolina to agree to join the re-invented conference in 2014.

“I would go as far to say as this is a historic day for Tulane University … the Big East is coming to the Big Easy,” school President Scott Cowen said Tuesday.

Tulane, in New Orleans, and East Carolina, in Greenville, N.C., will make it six Conference USA schools to join the Big East in the last two years.

Rutgers announced one week ago that it would leave the Big East for the Big Ten. Cowen and athletic director Rick Dickson said serious talks with the Big East began about a week ago.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to join a national conference,” Dickson said.

Rutgers would like to join the Big Ten by 2014, along with Maryland, but the Scarlet Knights have left their departure date from the Big East ambiguous. Conference bylaws require members to give the league notification of two years and three months before departing, but the Big East has negotiated early exits for Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia in the past year.

West Virginia joined the Big 12 this year. Syracuse and Pitt will begin play in the Atlantic Coast Conference in September.

With Maryland leaving the ACC, there has been strong speculation that Connecticut or Louisville will be the next to leave the Big East as the Terps’ replacement.

If either does, the conference is still on target to have 12 football members in 2014, just not the same ones it will have in 2013 when the new Big East debuts.

“We’re not finished,” Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said. “We obviously have some other plans for expansion.”

Boise State and San Diego State, currently in the Mountain West, are set to join for football only starting in 2013, anchoring the Big East’s new West Division. Also on schedule to join next season are current C-USA members SMU, Houston, Memphis and Central Florida.

Navy has committed to join the Big East for football in 2015. The conference had planned to find a 14th member to balance out its divisions even before Rutgers left. BYU and Air Force were top targets for that spot.

Aresco said that the Big East could even expand to 16 members, depending on what schools are available.

“We have to let that play out,” he said.

Officials from San Diego State and Boise State have said they are still committed to joining the Big East but have expressed a desire for the conference to add more western schools.

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