With hand over its wallet, Big East rolls out football welcome mat for 4 more

February 06, 1991|By Dan Le Batard | Dan Le Batard,Knight-Ridder

MIAMI -- With opened arms but closed wallets, the Big East welcomed four new football-playing members into its conference yesterday, and the University of Miami expects to be playing seven conference games soon after 1995.

Miami will likely begin playing five conference games by 1993 and is required by contract to do so by 1995, Miami interim athletic director Paul Dee said after yesterday's announcement that West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Rutgers and Temple would join the four-team Big East for football only.

How the conference will share revenue was not disclosed yesterday, but commissioner Mike Tranghese said Miami will do "a minimal amount of sharing" until the other schools in the conference start bringing in a comparable amount of money in football. Likewise, Miami, which joined the Big East last year, will not start sharing completely in the conference's basketball revenue until the Miami basketball program begins making more money.

Tranghese said the Big East already has formed a bowl committee in hopes of linking its champion to a major New Year's Day bowl and its second-, third- and fourth-place teams to smaller bowls. Tranghese said no deadline for bowl affiliation has been set and discussions are still preliminary. Dee did all but assure that no bowl decision would be made to compromise the University of Miami's ability to play in the Orange Bowl every year.

"The University of Miami wants to keep in mind the Orange Bowl," Dee said. "It's a premier bowl game and it's our bowl game."

With a bowl link in mind, the new Big East wants to begin keeping conference standings in football immediately. In fact, it will crown a conference champion next year even though many schools (Miami included) have as few as two Big East opponents on their 1991 schedules.

Here's how: West Virginia and Boston College are the only two Big East schools on next year's Miami schedule. But under the conference's radical new formula, three of Miami's non-conference opponents will also count as conference games. Those three non-conference games will be selected randomly by a committee later this month. Miami, then, could technically register a conference victory next year by beating Long Beach State.

While that, of course, is a short-term solution, yesterday's announcement was anything but short term. In fact, Tranghese said that the eight Big East schools have committed to the conference wholeheartedly, so much so that each signed a contract that would penalize them more than any other existing conference for bailing.

How much would a school be penalized for leaving?

"Significantly," Tranghese said.

What is significantly? About $500,000?

"No," said Tranghese, "significantly more."

So Miami must stay in the Big East, even though the idea of seven conference games doesn't exactly offer the Hurricanes the national scheduling flexibility they would like. Assuming college football doesn't turn to a playoff format, Dee expects to be playing seven conference games by 1996 or 1998 because the other Big East schools prefer scheduling stability to scheduling flexibility.

"It doesn't give us as much flexibility as we would like to have, but it does give us some flexibility," said Miami coach Dennis Erickson.

As part of the original agreement, former Miami AD Sam Jankovich, now with the New England Patriots, wanted five conference games until 1995 and no more than six after that. Asked Monday night if an outnumbered Miami was pushed into an unwanted position because of his absence, Jankovich said: "I can't say that. They are probably better off because I wasn't there."

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