Moving quickly to replace Rutgers and fortify itself against future defections, the Big East added current Conference USA schools Tulane and East Carolina to its ever-expanding roster Tuesday.
Tulane will join the league in all sports in 2014. East Carolina will join as a football-only member that same year. Boise State will join as a football-only member next year as the Big East expands to become a national football conference, in the words of Commissioner Mike Aresco.
The Big East is proactively responding to the national changes in conference affiliations, and Boise State remains committed to building and competing in a strong Big East future, Boise State President Bob Kustra said in a statement.
Said Aresco, referencing Boise State and San Diego State: They are extremely committed to the Big East. Ive talked to them on a number of occasions. They are as committed as theyve ever been.
The latest round of realignment was triggered by the Big Tens additions of Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the Big East. With the ACC eyeing several Big East members, the league moved fast to grab Tulane, located in New Orleans, and East Carolina, located in Greenville, N.C.
The additions give the Big East 13 football-playing members in 2014 and 14 with the addition of Navy in 2015. But more movement is expected.
Were not finished. We obviously have some other plans for expansion, Aresco said. ... Weve left the door open to 16 teams (in football). It depends on the quality of teams that want to be in the conference. There are quality institutions who want to be a part of the Big East.
Tulane and East Carolina become the fifth and sixth teams from Conference USA to join the league in the last two years. Aresco said the league still has a strategy to add another school in the West, but he denied a report that BYU had declined an invitation.
We absolutely will be looking at some western schools, Aresco said.
The Big Easts latest roster change comes as the conference is in the middle of make-or-break television contract negotiations. Aresco said the talks were put on hold last week because of Rutgers departure and the expansion decisions, but will soon start again.
Adding Tulane brings the conference another large television market, one of the Big Easts stated goals. Tulane will open a new on-campus football stadium in 2014, which the school hopes will rejuvenate interest in the team.
East Carolina brings a competitive football program, one that has reached a bowl game in five of the last six years and draws more than 47,000 fans per game. East Carolina did not announce what conference its other sports would play in.
Conference USA had already replaced the previously announced departing members. Next season Louisiana Tech, Florida International, North Texas and Texas-San Antonio will join C-USA, giving it 16 football schools.
In 2014, Old Dominion will join C-USA, and Charlotte is scheduled to join with its fledgling football program in 2015.
To be clear, we have several options but no new member agreements have been made at this time, C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said. We appreciate the support of our members and will immediately begin a presidentially led process to evaluate our future options.
The conference turmoil is potentially good news for Idaho, which is hoping further movement creates an opening for its football program in an FBS conference. The Vandals will play as an independent in 2013.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph