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Tulane to join the Big East for 2014

Nov. 28, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Conference realignment has struck Conference USA once more as Tulane announced on Tuesday that it was leaving for the Big East Conference in all sports starting in 2014.

East Carolina also will be leaving Conference USA in football only, starting with the 2014 season.

"We at Marshall University would like to wish Tulane and East Carolina the best of luck in their new conference affiliations," Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick said. "At the same time, I remain confident in the future of Conference USA, and the direction we will go."

Tuesday's news means that over the last two years, C-USA has lost six of its members to the Big East, including Houston, SMU, UCF and Memphis.

The defections of Tulane in all sports and East Carolina in football came about after a pair of moves last week that shook the national landscape. Last week, a pair of schools -- Rutgers from the Big East and Maryland from the Atlantic Coast Conference -- announced that they were leaving their respective conferences for the Big Ten.

"These are unprecedented times in higher education," said C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky in a release. "Notwithstanding the changes, we are excited about our future and we remain committed to our strategic plan -- a major market, two-division conference that is student-athlete friendly."

Rutgers leaving the Big East left a void, but Big East officials also wanted to add another team because Maryland's defection from the ACC likely means the ACC will extend an invitation to Big East members Louisville and/or Connecticut in the coming weeks. Cincinnati has also been lobbying to join the ACC, according to media reports.

The spiral of moves has greatly affected C-USA over the past year.

Following the losses of Houston, SMU, UCF and Memphis, C-USA took action quickly trying to form a new alliance with the Mountain West Conference to create a super-league with television representation that would span five time zones.

However, the initial plan for a merger-of-sorts fell through as logistics were difficult to see through.

That failed merger prompted C-USA to add six schools beginning in 2013 -- Old Dominion, Charlotte, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, North Texas and University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA). The Old Dominion and Charlotte football teams won't begin conference play until 2015.

"We have recently made some great regional additions -- Charlotte, Old Dominion and a growing and vibrant Florida institution, FIU -- in Conference USA for future matchups that Herd fans will enjoy, and I feel this trend of expanding with the right institutions will continue," Hamrick said.

On Tuesday, Banowsky made it known that the conference is keeping its options open and that further additions could be made quickly.

"To be clear, we have several options but no new member agreements have been made at this time," Banowsky said. "We appreciate the support of our members and will immediately begin a presidentially-led process to evaluate our future options."

Sources close to the situation indicate that Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky are two of the schools being considered.

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