The structure of the Big East Conference took two major steps in its new direction on Wednesday.
Just hours after the Big XII-bound West Virginia Mountaineers fell to the Connecticut Huskies, Big East commissioner John Marinatto held a press conference at Madison Square Garden making the Temple Owls an official member of the conference. Big East basketball plans to operate under 15 programs in 2012-13, as Temple will spend one year as a football-only member.
Temple's other sports will be a part of the Big East in 2013-14, once the program reaches a settlement with the Atlantic-10 conference.
The past six months have been a whirlwind for the Big East, who have seen departures from West Virginia, the Pittsburgh Panthers, Syracuse Orange and an abolished agreement from Texas Christian (TCU). The conference will welcome Houston, Southern Methodist (SMU), Central Florida (UCF), and Memphis as full members in 2013. Boise State, San Diego State, and Navy are slated to become football-only members in the future.
"The addition of Temple University further strengthens the Big East Conference," mentioned Marinatto in a press release. "This provides the solid foundation required to move forward confidently and boldly."
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The Big East, which more appropriately should be called the Big America or maybe the new Conference USA, is attempting to recover from the losses of three of its most heralded programs. Marinatto has mentioned plans of "rapid" expansion, mostly in hopes of extending its field of football programs to 14.
Looking at the basketball side of this deal, Temple seems to be a perfect fit for the Big East. The loss of three long-standing members brought rise to threats that the conference would soon lose the identity built over the past quarter-century.
Temple is as "Big East" as any other non-Big East program.
The Owls, who have become a perennially strong operation under head coach Fran Dunphy (who was considered for the St. John's job in 2010), bring to the Big East exactly what it needs. It's the best of both worlds. Temple gets to take a huge step forward in conference prestige and the Big East increases its influence in Philadelphia.
"This is arguably the greatest day in Temple Athletics," said Temple athletics director Bill Bradshaw. "There is no other conference that is a better fit for Temple than the Big East. This move will benefit not just Temple University, its student athletes, coaches, alumni, and fans, but also the city of Philadelphia. We look forward to renewing old rivalries and forging new ones."
The old rivalry with Villanova may continue on to the gridiron as well. The Big East has also offered financial assistance to Villanova to cover the program's exploratory costs as they consider a move from FCS football to FBS football, where the Big East Conference competes.
Those Villanova-Temple battles will no longer be just about Brotherly Love bragging rights, but for position in standings. In a conference that had lost identity of rivalries in recent years, this move provides the Big East with a throwback pairing.
The Big East is solidifying its on-court future - slowly, but surely.