Tom Smart, Deseret News
PROVO — While Tulane and East Carolina are joining the Big East Conference, a CBSSports.com report said that talks between BYU and the Big East have "resurfaced," and that BYU "has decided not to accept the Big East's latest invite."
BYU officials don't comment on such reports.
Last November, BYU, which is in its second year as a football independent, was reportedly close to joining the Big East. The Big East has been looking for another Western school to be a member of the league along with Boise State and San Diego State. The Big East is also seeking to land a lucrative TV contract, and the addition of BYU would be a boon for the conference.
Washington (D.C.) Examiner columnist Jim Williams, who has extensive contacts in the Big East and on the East Coast, told the Deseret News that the Big East and BYU have "never really stopped talking."
According to Williams, newly hired commissioner Mike Aresco reconnected with BYU administrators recently.
"Talks intensified," he said in an e-mail. "So they are talking — that does not mean that they will join, but they continue to talk."
Williams added that Tuesday's report that BYU turned down an invitation to join the Big East was "wrong. The Big East did not make an offer and BYU did not turn it down."
Meanwhile, college football realignment remains very fluid.
The Atlantic Coast Conference is hoping to keep Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech in its ranks, as Florida State and Clemson are being courted by the Big 12 — which has 10 teams — while the Big Ten might be interested in poaching Georgia Tech from the ACC and Vanderbilt from the Southeastern Conference, according to Williams.
"Things are all up in the air right now, so if BYU wants to be in a conference, their best bet is where things stand at this point (as an independent). Both sides continue to talk and my guess is that BYU wants to see what the ACC does. They are in no rush. I think that both the Big East and BYU want to work together, but it has to be under the right conditions."
Tulane, ECU will leave C-USA to join Big East in 2014
The Big East moved quickly to replace Rutgers and braced for more possible departures, getting Tulane and East Carolina to agree to join the re-invented conference in 2014.
"I would go as far to say as this is a historic day for Tulane University ... the Big East is coming to the Big Easy," school President Scott Cowen said Tuesday.
Tulane, in New Orleans, and East Carolina, in Greenville, N.C., will make it six Conference USA schools to join the Big East in the last two years.
Rutgers announced a week ago that it would leave the Big East for the Big Ten. Cowen and athletic director Rick Dickson said serious talks with the Big East began about a week ago.
"This is an unprecedented opportunity to join a national conference," Dickson said.
ECU athletic director Terry Holland said an offer to join the Big East came Sunday. "It was a quick turnaround," he said.
Rutgers would like to join the Big Ten by 2014, along with Maryland, but the Scarlet Knights have left their departure date from the Big East ambiguous. Conference bylaws require members to give the league notification of two years and three months before departing, but the Big East has negotiated early exits for Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia in the past year.
West Virginia joined the Big 12 this year. Syracuse and Pitt will begin play in the Atlantic Coast Conference in September.
With Maryland leaving the ACC, there has been strong speculation that Connecticut or Louisville will be the next to leave the Big East as the Terps' replacement.
If either does, the conference is still on target to have 12 football members in 2014, just not the same ones it will have in 2013 when the new Big East debuts.
"We're not finished," Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said. "We obviously have some other plans for expansion."
The Big East is also on the open market, trying to negotiate a pivotal new television contract. Aresco said that had to be put on hold for a few days as the conference regrouped after the latest defection.
Boise State and San Diego State, currently in the Mountain West, are set to join for football only starting in 2013, anchoring the Big East's new West Division. Also on schedule to join next season are current C-USA members SMU, Houston, Memphis and Central Florida.
Navy has committed to join the Big East for football in 2015. The conference had planned to find a 14th member to balance out its divisions even before Rutgers left. BYU and Air Force were top targets for that spot.
Aresco said that the Big East could even expand to 16 members, depending on what schools are available.
"We have to let that play out," he said.
Officials from San Diego State and Boise State have said they are still committed to joining the Big East but have expressed a desire for the conference to add more western schools. "They absolutely are extremely committed to the Big East," Aresco said. "We absolutely will be looking at some western schools."
The Big East's membership also includes seven schools, including Georgetown and St. John's, that either do not have football teams or don't compete at the FBS level, but have helped it become a premier basketball conference.
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