Tulane, East Carolina leave C-USA, look to join Big East by 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 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.
Athletic director Rick Dickson said serious talks with the Big East began about a week ago.
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.
''We're not finished,'' Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said. ''We obviously have some other plans for expansion.''
Tulane seems an odd choice based on the school's recent performance in football and men's basketball, the two most prominent sports. The Green Wave haven't been to a bowl game since 2002 and last made the NCAA men's basketball tournament in 1995. Tulane just completed a 2-10 football season under first-year coach Curtis Johnson.
It hasn't always been this way for Tulane. Cowen said in the decade before Hurricane Katrina devastated the school in 2005, forcing it to shut down for a semester, Tulane won more sports championships than any program in C-USA.
Cowen said it took three years for the university to fully recover.
He said the school has sunk $125 million into the athletic department for facilities and coaches. Tulane will open a new on-campus football stadium in 2014, which the school hopes will rejuvenate interest in the team.
East Carolina has been a consistent winner in football and looked to get in the Big East for years. The Pirates have played in a bowl five out of the last six years and finished 8-4 this season, just missing out on a trip to the C-USA title game. The Pirates also have no problem drawing fans, with an average attendance of more than 47,000 per home game.
Holland said East Carolina's next step is to find an ''equally exciting and competitive environment for the 18 sports other than football.''
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.''