Big East might consider letting Pitt, Syracuse leave in 2013

By Lauren Kirschman

Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said the conference “might be open to discussion” about… Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said the conference “might be open to discussion” about allowing Pitt and Syracuse to move to the Atlantic Coast Conference for the 2013 season, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

The Big East and West Virginia University reached a settlement on Monday that will allow West Virginia to compete in the Big 12 in 2012. In a lawsuit, West Virginia asserted that it should have been released from the Big East’s 27-month waiting period for leaving the conference because the Big East “failed to fulfill its fiduciary obligations” toward the university.

Before Monday, Marinatto had said that he wanted to keep Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia in the Big East until 2014, upholding the conference’s 27-month waiting period.

“Given the strength and speed of our expansion efforts, I think our board might be open to a discussion about 2013,” Marinatto told the Associated Press in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

If Pitt and Syracuse do move to the ACC for the 2013 season, the Big East will still have an 11-team football conference.

The University of Memphis, Southern Methodist University, the University of Central Florida and Houston will join the Big East for all sports in 2013. Boise State and San Diego State will join the Big East for football only in 2013, and Navy will join for football only in 2015.

Pitt Athletic Director Steve Pederson has said that he wants to leave the conference on good terms and that Pitt hasn’t considered going West Virginia’s route. He has also said that Pitt had been closely monitoring West Virginia’s situation.

While the long-term consequences of West Virginia’s decision remain unknown, Pitt must now fill another hole in its schedule for next season. Pitt already had an opening in its schedule because Texas Christian University — which was supposed to join the Big East next year — made the decision to leave for the Big 12 and will face no waiting period before the switch.

Pederson said on Feb. 7 that Pitt was close to filling that opening. He said in a statement on Tuesday that the Big East told Pitt that it reached a settlement with West Virginia, and that the conference would work to help Pitt find a replacement for its scheduled home game against the Mountaineers.

He added that Pitt will keep its fans informed as the situation develops.

“Given the conference transitions both schools are currently undergoing, it is difficult to speculate on the future of our series with WVU,” Pederson said. “Our more immediate focus is on finalizing our upcoming football schedule.”

Marinatto told the Associated Press that he hopes that the 2012 Big East football schedule will be released within the next two weeks. The Big East has just seven members for next season. However, Marinatto added that one of the schools set to join the conference in 2013 could arrive early, though he declined to say which school.