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Big East extends invites after defections

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**FILE** Big East commissioner John Marinatto speaks Aug. 2, 2011, to reporters during Big East football media day, in Newport, R.I. (Associated Press)

In an attempt to rebound from four defections, Big East presidents voted Tuesday to invite specific football-only and all-sport schools to join the conference.

Names of the schools invited or a timeline for admittance weren’t released, but speculation has centered on Navy, Air Force and Boise State joining as football-only members and Houston, SMU and Central Florida coming aboard in all sports.

“The addition of these members will extend our reach, bring us to exciting new markets, strengthen our status within the BCS and lay the foundation for possible further expansion,” Big East commissioner John Marinatto said in a statement after the presidents met in Philadelphia.

Marinatto described the additions as “high-quality.”

Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said Tuesday that he had heard about the conference’s vote, but that was about it.

“I don’t have any new information on my end regarding the Big East,” Gladchuk said.

Given the surprises that already have cropped up as various conferences around the country have realigned, concrete information might not come soon.

“As we’ve learned over the last two months, don’t believe anything anybody tells you. Nothing’s done until it is over,” Marinatto told the Associated Press. “So I’m obviously being very cautious, and that’s why I’m reluctant to say names of schools.”

Since Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced in September they were leaving for the ACC, the Big East faced a series of setbacks as conference realignment has altered the landscape of college athletics. TCU’s departure to the Big 12 followed before its first game in the Big East. West Virginia exited to the Big 12 on Friday, then sued the Big East in Monongalia County Circuit Court on Monday to escape the conference’s 27-month waiting period before exiting.

The same day, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich confirmed the school’s since-ended discussions about joining the Big 12.

West Virginia’s departure left the Big East with five football schools, including Louisville.

West Virginia’s lawsuit ripped Marinatto as “ineffective.” But the commissioner reiterated Tuesday he would hold West Virginia, along with Syracuse and Pittsburgh, to the 27-month delay despite West Virginia’s announcement it would start membership in the Big 12 on July 1, 2012.

“The conference believes these claims to be wholly without merit and will explore all its legal options to protect its interests,” Marinatto said, “and to ensure that West Virginia lives up to its obligations.”

About the Author

Patrick Stevens

Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at 64plus4@gmail.com.

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