Besieged Big East Conference Moves On

Besieged Big East Conference Moves On

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Conference rakes in $40 million from its settlements.

Say what you will about the Big East Conference, but its death notice has been issued prematurely. Certainly, the conference has taken its hits and it is far from being a healthy one. Nevertheless, the Big East has managed to settle with Pitt, Syracuse and TCU, acquiring multi-million dollar settlements from each school in exchange for an early exit or the termination of a lawsuit.

Financial Settlements

Effective July 1, 2013, both Pitt and Syracuse will be officially members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Big East Conference had insisted that each school keep to their agreed upon 27-month wait to make the transition to the ACC, but both schools wanted out early. West Virginia was able to leave the conference immediately, but that move cost the school $20 million. Pitt and Syracuse will ultimately pony up $7.5 million each, covering both the standard $5 million exit fee and a $2.5 million early exit penalty.

Both Pitt and Syracuse attempted to leave the Big East Conference immediately citing West Virginia’s quick exit and TCU’s about face. TCU abruptly withdrew from the Big East before it officially entered the conference, choosing to move to the Big 12 instead in a bid to join up with WVU. The Big East later sued TCU and the Texas school settled last week for $5 million to move on.

In all, the Big East Conference has pulled in $40 million from WVU, Pitt, Syracuse and TCU. The conference hasn’t said how the funds will be used, but it could compensate other schools that were forced to scramble to fill holes left in their schedules this year. Rutgers, for example, lost a home game when Temple was added. The New Jersey university has asked to be compensated as have some of the other Big East members.

Conference Regroups

With Pitt and Syracuse allowed out of the Big East, the conference will complete its transition as new members join its ranks. Founded in 1979, the Big East became a basketball powerhouse by the mid-1980s and has remained one of the strongest basketball conferences for men and women since.

In 1991, the Big East added football, enabling charter members Boston College and Syracuse to join Pittsburgh as all-sports schools. Also added were Miami, Rutgers, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Temple. In 2004, Miami and Virginia Tech left for the ACC followed one year later by Boston College. Temple was kicked out of the conference in 2004 for not meeting league performance requirements.

In 2005, the Big East added Cincinnati, Louisville and Florida. This year, Temple returns as an emergency replacement for West Virginia’s sudden exit. But, for 2013, the conference will undergo its most radical transformation when Houston, SMU, Central Florida, Memphis, Boise State and San Diego State join. In 2015, Navy will complete the conference’s expansion, bringing the number of football-playing schools up to 13, the most it has ever had.

National Presence

The newly-expanded conference will soon be a coast to coast conference with teams from the west and central parts of the country joining teams in the east and south. Although the conference will be bigger, more than half of its representatives have played elsewhere with most having once played in Conference USA. But, no matter how you shake it, the Big East will attempt to soldier on, by hiring a new commissioner and negotiating a television contract that will likely come in for much lower than what the league wants.

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