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Big East Expansion: Conference Was Close to Adding Navy, ECU Has Now Applied

In the wake of Syracuse and Pittsburgh making sudden moves to the ACC, more information has become public concerning the Big East's intentions to expand and try to maximize its next television deal. According to Brett McMurphy of CBS Sports, the Big East was very close to adding Navy and potentially Air Force as football only members before Syracuse and Pittsburgh decided to leave unannounced. He reports:

Before the sudden news broke last weekend that Pittsburgh and Syracuse were leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East was in the final stages of acquiring Navy as a football-only member. 

No official invitation was extended by the league, but both parties had extensive discussions about Navy joining the league in football only and it very well could have happened in the next couple of weeks, college football industry sources told

Besides Navy, the Big East also was targeting Air Force and league sources felt confident both schools would have been Big East members, perhaps within the next year – that is until Pitt and Syracuse announced they were leaving for the ACC.


While this news was met with near universal laughter, it wouldn't have been the worst possible move in expansion for the Big East. Navy and Air Force are proven television draws and McMurphy has previously reported that their addition would have been much more valuable than any addition from Conference USA in terms of additional money in a television deal. Still, the possibility of adding a football only service academy hundreds of miles away highlights just how truly limited the Big East's options were in terms of additional membership and underscores the very fear that caused Syracuse and Pittsburgh to make a panic leap to the ACC. 

The second piece of news today came from a tweet from Pete Thamel of the New York Times. Thamel tweeted that the East Carolina has applied for the Big East and is not shy about it. ECU noted that it "copied about 50 people on the e-mail." Aside from the humor of a school applying to the Big East via e-mail, it's difficult to see how, from a procedural perspective, how the Big East could possibly vote on adding a new member. Would Rutgers and UConn, two schools openly pining for invitations to another conference, be allowed to vote? How do you as a conference even evaluate membership applicants if you don't know you're going to survive? 

With so many questions and rumors lingering, and so many dependencies still unresolved, the Big East's future is as murky as it has ever been and there's no clear course of action either.