Tulane, East Carolina leave Conference USA for Big East

Tulane coach Mark Hutson takes the field with

Tulane coach Mark Hutson takes the field with his team before a game against Memphi in New Orleans. (Oct. 22, 2011) (Credit: AP)

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It's getting hard to tell the Big East from Conference USA without a program. Big East commissioner Mike Aresco Tuesday announced the addition of Tulane in all sports and East Carolina in football only as of the 2014 season. That means six current C-USA members -- half of that league -- will be competing in the Big East within two years.

Four other C-USA members -- Central Florida, Memphis, Houston and SMU -- previously announced plans to join the league in all sports starting in 2013 along with Boise State and San Diego State of the Mountain West in football only and Temple in all sports.

Aresco hailed the additions as part of his plan to "build a national conference," and he said Boise State and San Diego State remain as committed as ever despite the recent decision by Rutgers to leave for the Big Ten.

"We've worked extremely hard to get back on our feet," Tulane athletic director Rick Dixon said, referring to the school's problems rebounding from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "This is a dream come true for all of us."

Aresco said the New Orleans school fits the league's "big-market strategy." East Carolina is located in Greenville, N.C., but it brings a strong football program that is bowl-eligible for the sixth time in seven seasons.

The loss of Rutgers forced Aresco to "take a step back" to re-evaluate the league's position in recent television negotiations with multiple networks. "We will re-engage very soon in negotiations," Aresco said.

Asked how he expects to sell the football package without a strong tie to New York now that Rutgers is leaving, Aresco said, "New York follows a lot of football teams. If we have a good football conference, people will watch. The Big East was criticized as a small Northeastern conference. We're not that anymore."

Not by a long shot.

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