PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Temple and the Big East are talking about the Owls rejoining the conference as soon as next season.
MAC Commissioner Jon A. Steinbrecher said in a statement Wednesday that his league is “aware that Temple has been in discussions with the Big East regarding membership.”
A person familiar with the talks says the school and the Big East are trying to negotiate a deal that could have Temple in the league for all sports by next season. The person spoke Wednesday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the talks are still ongoing.
Temple played in the Big East in football only from 1991-2004, but was forced out of the league because the program was one of the worst in major college football. The Philadelphia-based school played as a football independent and eventually landed in the Mid-American Conference in 2007. In the MAC, Temple has turned its football program around and run off winning seasons the past three years.
The Owls’ other sports programs, including men’s and women’s basketball, compete in the Atlantic 10.
The Big East has a vacancy next season now that West Virginia is being allowed to leave immediately for the Big 12. The school and the conference settled competing lawsuits last week. The Big East will receive $20 million dollars from West Virginia in return for setting aside its 27-month notification period.
The New York Times reported on the talks between Temple and the Big East earlier Wednesday.
Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw had no comment on the matter.
The MAC has had 13 football schools since adding Temple in 2007. Last year, the MAC added Massachusetts as a football-only member, beginning in the 2012 season.
At the same time, the MAC put in place new exit provisions which state that any football-only member wishing to leave the conference would need to provide notice two football seasons before departure and pay a fee of $2.5 million.
“Our position on this matter is that we have a contract in place with specifics that will govern and determine how this matter is handled,” Steinbrecher said.
The Big East has added seven schools since December, but most of them are planning to join in 2013. Navy is committed to become a football-only member of the Big East in 2015. The Big East was hoping to get one of its future members to join a year early to replace West Virginia. Boise State was the most likely candidate to move up its arrival, but the school announced Wednesday that it will stay in the Mountain West for one more year.
University President Bob Kustra said in a statement there were several discussions about moving football to the Big East and the rest of the sports to the Western Athletic Conference for the 2012-13 school year.
“While there certainly would have been advantages in making the move a year early, it became clear that it would not be fiscally responsible, as all of the expenses associated with early entry into the two conferences would not be covered,” Kustra said.
Adding Temple for 2012 would not only allow Big East members to fill West Virginia’s spot on their football schedules, it would give the conference another perennially strong basketball program to help make up for the eventual losses of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Pitt and Syracuse have said they won’t fight the Big East for an early exit, though Commissioner John Marinatto said after the West Virginia case was settled that the Big East would be open to discussing the Panthers and Orange leaving after the 2012-13 season.
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