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Big East to offer invitation to Boise State

Brian Murphy Idaho Statesman

The Big East made another move toward rebuilding its tattered conference Tuesday when its presidents voted to extend invitations to new members, including Boise State.

Boise State’s next move comes Thursday when the State Board of Education meets in Boise to consider a new football home for the Broncos. Boise State needs approval from the eight-member board to change conferences.

A school spokesman said Tuesday that Boise State had not received an invitation from the Big East.

“We are having discussions with the Big East and we continue to evaluate our options,” Frank Zang said.

The invite appears to be on its way.

Multiple outlets reported Tuesday that the Big East is planning to invite Boise State, Air Force and Navy as football-only schools and Central Florida, Houston and SMU as all-sport members. That’s been the plan for weeks.

Commissioner John Marinatto announced that his conference presidents voted unanimously to add specific schools.

“The addition of these members will extend our reach, bring us to exciting new markets, strengthen our status within the BCS, and lay the foundation for possible further expansion,” Marinatto said in a statement.

He said he expects the targeted schools to accept, but details must be finalized.

“As we’ve learned over the last two months, don’t believe anything anybody tells you. Nothing’s done until it is over. So I’m obviously being very cautious and that’s why I’m reluctant to say names of schools,” he said.

Marinatto made personal visits to Boise State and current Mountain West rival Air Force last week. Thursday’s meeting in Boise marked the second meeting in five days between Marinatto and Boise State President Bob Kustra.

Under the Big East’s planned expansion, Boise State, Air Force and current Conference USA members SMU and Houston would be in the Big East’s western division, along with current Big East members Louisville and Cincinnati. Football independent Navy and Conference USA’s Central Florida would be part of an eastern division with current Big East members Connecticut, South Florida, Rutgers and another school, possibly Temple or Memphis.

The conference could then play a conference championship game, possibly in New York City, Marinatto said last month. The Big East has been working on a plan to add those six schools and reconfigure as a 12-team football conference since Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced Sept. 18 they are leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference. The conference was further weakened by the defection of member-to-be TCU to the Big 12 and last week’s decision by West Virginia to leave for the Big 12.

“We got reaffirmation from our members that that was the way we wanted to go,” Marinatto said. “It was probably a very small part of our meeting today, where they just reaffirmed everything we had been talking about and authorized me to move forward with formal discussions to get this all wrapped up as soon as possible.”

The timing moving forward remains unclear.

CBS reported that Boise State and the three Conference USA teams could announce together that they are joining the conference as soon as Friday. Boise State still needs to find a home for its other sports programs, perhaps the Western Athletic Conference where Boise State competed from 2001 to 2010 before joining the Mountain West.

The Mountain West will not allow the Broncos to keep their non-football teams in the conference, Commissioner Craig Thompson has said. The Big West and West Coast conferences also have been mentioned as possibilities.

Central Florida and Navy joined Boise State in saying publicly that they had not received invitations from the conference.

Boise State and Air Force could join the Big East for the 2012 season, but it might be cost prohibitive for the Broncos. If the No. 5 Broncos makes a Bowl Championship Series game at the end of this season, it could cost them up to $21 million to exit the Mountain West. Boise State would pay far less to get out of the conference in 2013.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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