Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 11/10/11


According to Brigham Young University head football coach Bronco Mendenhall, the Big East has approached his school for future membership in their football conference.

In essence, Big East commissioner John Marinatto is contemplating inviting BYU to stand in for Notre Dame in football, while Notre Dame is a member in all other sports.

Alternatively, the Mormon religion will stand in for the Catholic religion and represent the Big East, a noted Catholic conference.

Take a moment to let the full implication of this new development permeate your consciousness, politics make strange bedfellows indeed.

As a native born American, I respect every American’s constitutional right to practice whatever religion they choose. Further, I believe it is that diversity that makes our country the greatest in the world.

I also understand that sometimes that diversity causes a degree of inherent divergence between differing religions.

The largest contributing factor to the problems facing the Big East in the inability of its members to work together to create a cohesive conference; throughout its history the Big East basketball schools have continually fought changes to the conference that would strengthen the football side.

Expecting the addition of BYU to reduce the rift between the remaining football and basketball members of the Big East could be a practice in futility.

In 2004, the ACC raided the Big East and eventually invited three members of the Big East to join its conference, Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech.

In response, the Big East changed its bylaws for members that chose to leave the conference. Currently an exiting team must pay the conference $5-million and maintain conference play for additional 27-months.

In September of this year, the ACC again raided the Big East and added two more members to its conference, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

The Big-12 also accepted two members of the Big East, Texas Christian University and West Virginia University. The defection of those two schools prompted Marinatto to step up his efforts to find additional members for his conference.

The move by the Big-12 was prompted by the SEC’s decision to add both Texas A&M and Missouri to their conference fold; both schools are former members of the Big-12.

Since TCU had not officially begun conference play in any sport, the Horned Frogs were not subject to the 27-month exit term. The Big East will only collect the $5-million exit fee from TCU.

WVU chose to file a civil suit to expedite its move to the Big-12, WVU wants to join the Big-12 on July 1, 2012. The Big East contends the Mountaineers must follow Big East bylaws and remain a member of the Big East until July 1, 2014.

Marinatto and the Big East and have filed a counter suit to hold WVU to its bylaws.

The Big-12 is facing the prospect of playing the 2012 football season as a nine-member conference, a development the Big-12 contends it is prepared to live with. Still, the Big-12 television contract was signed to include ten teams for Big-12 conference play.

It remains uncertain if entering the season one team short will effect the terms of the contract. The Big-12 could be facing a breach of contract situation regarding the number of its conference membership.

It would make sense that such a breech could cost the conference millions of dollars in television revenue

Missouri could still remain in the Big-12 for one more season to allow the conference to maintain its contractual agreements. Still, the thought of playing one more season in a conference the school chose to leave seems counter-productive for Missouri.

Recently, reports have surfaced that the Big-12 is considering a move back to a 12-team conference. It was widely expected that the Big-12 would remain a ten-team conference and forego the conference title game a 12-team conference is entitled to play.

The Big East is expected to add seven teams to its remaining five football members to become a 12-team conference. The teams most mentioned for future membership are Central Florida, Houston, and Southern Methodist for full membership and Air Force, Navy, and Boise State for football only membership.

Boise State’s membership is reportedly contingent on the Big East forming a western division to reduce travel expenses and create geographic rivalries for the Idaho school.

By adding BYU to the mix, the Big East would achieve its 12-team format and effectively stave off the loss of its auto-qualifying status in the BCS. It is reported that Marinatto has worked tirelessly to complete the mass influx of future members. The Big East is expected to announce the additions at virtually any time.

Should the Big-12 decide to move to a 12-team conference, the additional members could come from the same list of members the Big East is targeting? Worse, future members of the Big-12 might include additional current members of the Big East.

BYU is often mentioned as a possible member of the Big-12 should the conference decide to move to 12-teams. As an independent, BYU would be free to enter conference play whenever they chose and could fulfill the need for a tenth team the Big-12 needs for 2012.

While BYU could represent the Big-12’s tenth team for 2012, the conference would stand at 11 members and would need one more to round out a 12-team conference.

During the week that eventually saw the Big-12 extend a membership to WVU there was an apparent contest between Louisville and WVU for the invitation. Both schools saw its senators enter a war of words over the merits of their respective state’s school.

Drawing the conclusion that Louisville could become the final member for the Big-12 is an easy reach. The Cardinals would be an excellent addition to WVU and could create a geographic rivalry for both schools within the Big-12. Cincinnati could also fit that same description for the Big-12.

By forcing WVU to remain a member of the Big East Marinatto could be forcing the Big-12 to re-enter conference expansion. A decision by the Big-12 to add more teams could destroy all the work that Marinatto has done to save the conference.

Losing BYU could severely hinder the Big East’s ability to form a western division. A development that could see Boise State remove itself from potential membership in the Big East.

Boise State and its BCS status is thought to be the jewel in the Big East expansion plan. Without the Bronco’s BCS score the status of the Big East’s auto-qualification comes into serious jeopardy for the future.

Marinatto faces some hard choices regarding the future of his conference the more enemies he makes in the process the less likely his chances of navigating those choices to a positive outcome.

By fighting to keep WVU to its 27-month departure term Marinatto might be dooming the future of the Big East’s AQ status. Conversely, by allowing WVU to exit early Marinatto could also give Syracuse and Pitt a free pass to leave the conference too.

Once Marinatto commits to an eventual plan for the future, he sets all the variables into motion. Variables that, at this point, appear to doom the plan before it starts.

Whatever course Marinatto ultimately charts for the future of the Big East, none appears to represent an ideal path. At best the decision that Marinatto faces is what direction least hurts the future of the Big East football conference.

Once again, the position of strength Marinatto believed he stood on appears to be just a belief.


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