Report: Big East, Big 12 officials discuss merging leagues

Published 2:34 am Tuesday, September 20, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — The Big East and Big 12 might join together in their fight for survival.

School and conference officials from the two leagues have been discussing ways to merge what’s left of them if Texas and Oklahoma leave the Big 12, a person involved in the discussions told The Associated Press.

The person, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about what is going on behind the scenes, said Monday there has been dialogue between athletic directors and high-level officials in the conference offices.

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“Those conversations are alive and ongoing,” the person said.

Syracuse and Pittsburgh have announced they will be leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Texas and Oklahoma are both trying to decide whether to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-12, taking Oklahoma State and Texas Tech with them.

Both universities’ board of regents voted Monday to give their presidents the right to choose a new conference, though the Texas regents still held the right to give a final approval.

If the Big 12 loses those four members, it would leave Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State scrambling.

Without Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the Big East still has six football members, Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida, Rutgers, Louisville and West Virginia. Plus TCU is slated to join in 2012, giving the Big East a presence in Big 12 country.

Also talking about mergers are the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA.

Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson told the Idaho Statesmen that he and CUSA Commissioner Britton Banowsky “resurrected this consolidation concept with Conference USA from a football-only standpoint.”

A union between those schools could create one BCS automatic qualifying league, but there’s no guarantee some of those schools won’t also look elsewhere.

The Southeastern Conference has voted to accept Texas A&M as its 13th member, and speculation has Missouri and West Virginia as candidates to become No. 14.

The ACC might not be done adding Big East teams. The conference reached 14 members with the recent additions, and UConn and Rutgers would allow it to continue to expand its presence in the Northeast.

“I think UConn will be in the ACC, if I had to guess,” Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim said today during a speech at the Monday Morning Quarterback Club in Birmingham, according to The Birmingham News. “I think Rutgers could be.”

The Big East also has seven non-football members in St. John’s, Providence, Marquette, Seton Hall, DePaul, Villanova and Georgetown, and Notre Dame — which competes in the Big East in everything but football.

Managing the agendas of the football and non-football schools has been an issue for Big East Commissioner John Marinatto, who is in his third year leading the conference.

Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe managed to keep the Big 12 together last year when Texas was considering a move to the then-Pac-10 that would have included Texas Tech and the two Oklahoma schools.

However, that might have only been a temporary reprieve for the league.