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Published: Wednesday, 3/7/2012

Person close to situation says Temple will leave Atlantic 10 and MAC for Big East

BY DAN GELSTON
AP SPORTS WRITER
Temple running back Bernard Pierce (30) leaps over Wyoming defensive back Kenny Browder (24) and linebacker Brian Hendricks (8) in the 2011 New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, N.M. Temple running back Bernard Pierce (30) leaps over Wyoming defensive back Kenny Browder (24) and linebacker Brian Hendricks (8) in the 2011 New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, N.M.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

PHILADELPHIA — Temple will join the Big East for football next season and all other sports in 2013, according to a person familiar with the decision.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the official decision has not been announced.

The Owls football program played in the Mid-American Conference last season, while all other Temple programs, including men's basketball, are in the Atlantic 10.

The decision was made by Temple's Board of Trustees following a conference call.

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 school played as an independent and eventually landed in the MAC in 2007. While there, Temple turned its program around and ran off winning seasons the past three years.

Temple coach Fran Dunphy declined to discuss the pending move, saying his focus was on this weekend's Atlantic 10 tournament.

"We're worried about our team and our team playing Friday at noon," Dunphy said Wednesday. "I'm thinking about UMass and that's all I'm thinking about."

In men's basketball, the Owls have long been a power in the A-10, and are the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament this week in Atlantic City, N.J.

The Big East has a vacancy next season because West Virginia is being allowed to leave immediately for the Big 12. The school and the conference settled competing lawsuits, and the conference will receive $20 million from West Virginia in return for setting aside its 27-month notification period.

The MAC has had 13 football schools since adding Temple in 2007. Last year, the league added Massachusetts as a football-only member, beginning in 2012. 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. The A-10 reportedly needs $2 million to leave with one year's notice. It is not known what deal, if any, was put in place to avoid the MAC provision.

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 league 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 that it will stay in the Mountain West for one more year.

Adding Temple football next season obviously allows Big East members to fill West Virginia's spot on the schedule. But it's largest impact may be in men's basketball the following season. After all, adding the Owls gives the conference another perennially strong program to help make up for the eventual losses of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and solidifies the Philadelphia market as a Big East town, with Temple and Villanova in the fold.

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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