Houston Chronicle: Houston Cougars invited by Big East

Houston Chronicle says invite has been offered

UPDATE: Big East commissioner John Marinatto said no invitations had been sent out.

The Big East has extended an invitation to the University of Houston to join as a full-league member according to a report by The Houston Chronicle. The invitation was reported to have been offered following a conference call of university presidents and chancellors of the Big East discussing expansion Monday evening.

The report suggests that the time frame for Houston to leave Conference USA and join the Big East would be completed in 2013, which would mean one more season in Conference USA for the Cougars if they were to accept the invitation, which seems likely. Conference USA requires one calendar year before a team may move out of the conference and the withdraw fee is $500,000 plus the price of any lost television revenue projected for the five-years following the change.

The Big East is looking to move to a 12-team conference and would need six new members to join after the departures of Pittsburgh and Syracuse (ACC) and TCU (Big 12). TCU accepted an invitation to the Big 12 last week despite previously accepting an invite to the Big East. TCU will not be held to the 27-month waiting period that Pittsburgh and Syracuse are being tied to at the moment.

Other possible targets for the Big East include Central Florida, SMU, Boise State, Air Force and Navy. Temple and East Carolina could be added to the conversation if the Big East loses any more members.

CBS Sports also reported the Big East voted to raise the exit fees within the conference from $5 million to $10 million, but the change is contingent on the additions of Air Force and Navy to the conference. The two service academies seemed to be waiting for more security within the Big East before moving forward with any plan to join the Big East. The larger exit fee would seem to give Air Force and Navy that long-term security but the exit fee of $10 million may not be enough to keep members from bolting for the Big 12 if the conference should come calling. Missouri’s stepping toward the SEC could also have an impact on the Big East, with Louisville, West Virginia and Cincinnati have been mentioned in various Big 12 expansion discussions to get the conference to 12 members.

Big East commissioner John Marinatto has a media conference call scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, at 1:30 p.m., to discuss “current information on conference realignment.” It is expected that Marinatto will confirm the exit fee increase in the conference and may be in position to touch on an invitation to Houston and other potential members.

On Friday the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA jointly announced plans to unite their conferences in an effort to strengthen their presence and positions in the conference realignment situation. The move may be seen as an effort to convince schools like Houston, Boise State, Air Force and Central Florida to stay in their current conferences rather than leave for the Big East. Both conferences stand to lose some of their top programs and television markets to the Big East.

Originally posted on Examiner.com.

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