Boise St., SDSU: Full steam ahead to Big East
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The message being sent from the Big East meetings is a simple one — everyone is holding hands and reaffirming their love and commitment to the league.
Boise State athletic director Mark Coyle and San Diego State athletic director Jim Sterk both said their schools were committed to joining in 2013 as football-only schools.
Interim commissioner Joe Bailey said he has sensed no fragmentation among the different football and basketball factions in the league. Football coaches seem pleased with the way the league is positioning itself for future television negotiations.
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The happy face being put on the league is a necessary one, given the tumult of the last year. Boise State, for one, has been put in a difficult spot because it may not have a home for its other sports should the WAC collapse.
“Nothing’s changed. We’re here at the conference meetings,” Coyle said of the Big East. “It’s great to learn a great deal about the conference and the direction and all that.”
He said there have been no discussions about staying in the Mountain West. As for a home for the other sports programs, Coyle said there have been continuing talks with the WAC and other leagues.
“We’re trying to gather information,” Coyle said. “It’s changing for everybody. We’re in a unique spot because of the WAC and what they’ve gone through with some of the transformation they’ve had. We continue to talk with everybody and try to find the best long-term decision for our institution.”
In a statement issued Monday, MWC commissioner Craig Thompson responded:
“We had in-depth discussions with Boise State and made a very favorable proposal, but BSU has decided to continue with its plan to move to various other conferences. We are excited about the continued development of our membership configuration going forward and will proceed aggressively with our plans for future success.”
San Diego State is trying to assist Boise’s conference moves. The Aztecs have their other sports in the Big West beginning in 2013.
“I think we’re a partner with them out in the West, so our president and (Boise State) president (Bob) Kustra are talking in how that might occur,” Sterk said. “They have options. Boise is in a position of strength. People say, ‘Oh they’re in trouble.’ No, they’re in a position of strength here. They have opportunities and they’ll settle on the best decision for their institution.”
There is no question the league is in major transition, with three outgoing members and eight incoming members — Temple, Houston, SMU, UCF, Boise State, San Diego State, Memphis, Navy. Every incoming team is represented at the league spring meetings, where a host of topics are being discussed.
Chief among them is conference stability, the search for a new commissioner and upcoming television negotiations. To that end, Bailey made an extensive presentation to the coaches in attendance about a future marketing model.
Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey said the overriding theme was, “How do we make this work?”
The Big East continues to sell the idea that it is a national conference because it has football members spanning East to West.
“There was a lot of very positive feedback about the strength of the league and the teams that are coming into the league, what this league is going to be comprised of the next five years,” USF coach Skip Holtz said. “I think that’s one of the positive things, that’s why I said a lot of the coaches are taking positive things out of the meetings.”
Television negotiations begin in September, with an eye toward at least matching the recent deal the ACC struck with ESPN. Those TV negotiations were chief on the agenda among the league athletic directors. The hope is that a new TV deal will lend more stability to the conference.
But that remains to be seen, especially if the landscape changes even more.
“We’re going to leave here with great momentum with the Big East conference,” Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said. “There’s a lot of things that are extremely encouraging. Joe laid out a great plan. It’s going to be exciting times for the Big East.”