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Big East Welcomes Boise State, Houston, SMU, Central Florida, and San Diego State

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The BIG EAST Conference formally announced the addition of five prestigious universities to its ranks today, bringing its football membership to 10 and securing a strong core group of FBS schools as it expands into two divisions and works toward its goal of staging an annual conference football championship game.

The University of Central Florida, University of Houston and Southern Methodist University have accepted full membership into the BIG EAST while Boise State University and San Diego State University will compete as members in the sport of football. The BIG EAST Conference Board of Directors, by a unanimous vote of its Presidents, extended the invitations for membership. UCF, Houston and SMU will begin competing in all BIG EAST-sponsored sports in the 2013-14 academic year, while Boise State and San Diego State will start competing in football in the 2013 season.

"Over the last 32 years, the BIG EAST Conference has constantly evolved along with the landscape of college athletics," said BIG EAST Commissioner John Marinatto. "The inclusion of these five great Universities, which bring a unique blend of premier academics, top markets, strong athletics brands and outstanding competitive quality, marks the beginning of a new chapter in that evolution. We are proud to welcome these schools to the BIG EAST family. "Much like the conference as a whole, the BIG EAST name -- though derived 32 years ago based on the geography of our founding members -- has evolved into a highly respected brand that transcends borders, boundaries or regions. It’s national. Our membership makeup is now reflective of that."

"Over its history, the BIG EAST has changed and adapted as needed to maintain its place and leadership in the world of college athletics. And it has always done so with great respect and reverence for its heritage and legacy," said Judy Genshaft, University of South Florida President and Chair of the Conference Board of Directors. "And so it is today. Boise State, Houston, San Diego State, SMU and UCF are all fine schools that will enhance every aspect of the BIG EAST."

This expansion clearly moves the Conference far beyond its origins in the Northeast. With these five new members, the Conference will continue to have the single largest media footprint in college football, spanning literally from coast to coast and all the major regions in between. In effect, the BIG EAST will be the first truly national college football conference.

The creation of a western division is a bold and innovative step that will provide fans with two distinct divisions in football – East and West – which will produce new rivalries, accommodate further expansion flexibility and, eventually, set the stage for an annual football championship game. The addition of these five new marketplaces boosts the number of the BIG EAST’s potential TV households by more than six percent and up to 28 million.

Four different time zones will also allow the Conference and its television partner the potential to schedule four games on a given Saturday back-to-back-to-back-to-back without any overlap. It is a powerful model and one that will be unmatched by any other conference.These expansion efforts will create a very unique synergy within the Conference and allow creative football scheduling for the future given that the league will have schools in four different time zones under its auspices.

Central Florida is the second-largest university in the United States with an enrollment of 58,587. Located in Orlando, Fla., UCF was founded in 1963. The Orlando television market is the nation’s 19th largest. UCF has been named one of the "50 Best Value Public Universities" by USA Today and the Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school as a "Top Up-And-Coming" university for the past three years.

The Knights compete in 16 men’s and women’s sports. The UCF football team has won two conference championships in the last five seasons and played in four bowl games over the last six years. Last year, the Knights won the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and finished No. 25 in the final Bowl Championship Series ranking. Going into the 2011-12 academic year, UCF athletic teams have made 86 NCAA Division I team tournament appearances and 92 NCAA Division I individual championship appearances.

Houston, a university with an enrollment of 39,825, was founded in 1927 in Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in the U.S. and the 10th largest television market. The University’s student body is the second most ethnically diverse among major research institutions in the U.S., according to U.S. News & World Report.

Twenty-two Houston athletes have competed in the Olympics and have combined to win 39 medals, including 20 gold. The men’s basketball program has made five Final Four appearances. The football team has made 20 bowl appearances and won 10 conference championships. This year, the Cougars have enjoyed of their best seasons in history. They finished the regular season with a 12-1 record and a No. 19 ranking in the final BCS standings. One of the top men’s golf programs in the nation, the Cougars have captured 16 NCAA titles.

SMU is the only Division I program in Dallas, Texas, the nation’s ninth largest city and fifth largest television market. The school has an enrollment of 10,981 and was established in 1911. According to U.S. News & World Report, SMU is the best overall undergraduate college in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. SMU is one of only 77 institutions in the U.S. with an endowment of over $1 billion.

SMU sponsors 17 sports. The Mustangs have been ranked as the top school in their conference 11 times in the past 14 years in the Director’s Cup overall athletic standings. The men’s basketball team has won 14 conference championships and made one Final Four appearance. The men’s soccer team has advanced to the NCAA Championship in 16 of the last 18 seasons, including two Final Four appearances. The football team will appear in its third straight bowl game in January at the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.

Boise State is the largest university in Idaho with an enrollment of 19,664. The campus is home of 11 Idaho Professor of the Year honorees since 1990 and the 2011 national champion debate and speech team.

The football program has been one of the nation’s best in recent years. Since 2002, the Broncos have won eight conference titles and earned eight top 25 finishes in the national polls, including a top 10 finish in each of the last four seasons. Boise State won the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in 2010 and 2007. The Broncos, who play in Bronco Stadium with its distinctive blue turf, have finished in the top 10 of the BCS standings for the last three years and are ranked No. 7 this week. Off the field, the football program won the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Academic Achievement Award. The Bronco football team had a 100 percent graduation rate for members of its student-athlete class of 2004.

San Diego State is the oldest and largest higher education institution in the San Diego region and fifth largest in California. Founded in 1897, the university has grown to become a nationally ranked research university and has an enrollment of 32,396. Increasingly recognized for innovative research, San Diego State has achieved the prestigious designation of "Research University" with high research activity granted by the Carnegie Foundation. The San Diego market is the 28th largest in the U.S.

The SDSU football program has enjoyed recent success with a 9-4 record in 2010 and a win in the Poinsettia Bowl. This year’s team owns an 8-4 mark and will play in the New Orleans Bowl. The Aztecs play their home games at Qualcomm Stadium, the home of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers. San Diego State has had 134 players become NFL Draft picks, including 13 since 2004

The five new schools join Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers and USF as the teams competing in football in the BIG EAST Conference and UCF, Houston and SMU join DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova in all other sports. With the addition of the five new schools, the BIG EAST will have the largest footprint of any college football conference in the nation, with a coast-to-coast presence spanning eight states in five different regions of the country.

Stay tuned to Big East Coast Bias and in particular our Big East Expansion section for any additional news on potential new additions to the conference.