Big East's Future Still Unclear

Thankfully, the start of the college basketball season has redirected the spotlight (even if temporarily) from the looming Big East realignment discussion. That said, we'll likely be talking about it until there's some resolution to the conference's future, whatever form that may take.

As it stands, Syracuse and Pitt are headed to the ACC, UConn's plans remain fluid, and the Big East is scrambling to find schools to fill the vacancies, but to also keep the conference as one of the nation's elite (and, just as important, keep the automatic BCS bids that come with it … because, after all, this is about football).

The Big East presidents met earlier this week and the first order of business was to raise the exit fee from $5 million to $10 million, which should deter would-be defectors in the future.

"This is, of course, a significant step forward as well as a positive demonstration and acknowledgment of the continued benefits of being in the Big East conference," Big East commissioner John Marinatto said (via the Connecticut Post). "It also sends a message to those institutions that we would like to talk with about Big East Conference membership.

"This league has a long heritage and a great tradition. There will always be quality institutions that want to align themselves with us as we reposition ourselves for our upcoming television negotiations 11 months from now."

The schools that the conference has identified for expansion include: Air Force, Boise State and Navy in a football-only capacity and Central Florida, Houston and SMU in an all-sports capacity.

Boise State would be a huge get for a conference that isn't considered elite by football standards. Of course, Boise, by any measure, isn't in the east. But given how conferences are reshuffling, geography has become an afterthought.

“I’ve been very vocal about my thoughts regarding the BCS and when they organize in 2013, I hope there’s a way to deal with some of these inequities,” Boise State President Bob Kustra told the AP on Saturday. “But in the meantime, it seems like our responsibility is to get as close as we can to [automatic qualifier] status as we can.”

The Norwich Bulletin notes that despite being 1,900 miles from the nearest Big East member, Louisville, the possible addition of Air Force and two Texas schools could make for a Big East -- Western Division.

Still, there is much to be decided. Not just with those schools extended invitations, but for the current Big East programs, too. UConn doesn't seem long for the conference, and there's the possibility Louisville and West Virginia would draw interest from other conferences as well.

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