NEWPORT, R.I. -- The Big East is still considering expansion as it prepares to negotiate a television rights deal that commissioner John Marinatto called the most important in its history.
The conference will add TCU as its ninth football member, and 17th member overall, in the fall of 2012. The move gives the Big East another huge television market, along with New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, but could further complicate the relationship between the schools that play football and those that don't. The football members would like to add another school, but that choice has to appease the basketball members, too.
Marinatto said he will only consider adding a school that brings "value."
"There is no magic number for us," he said. "We want quality. We're a nontraditional conference. We find ways to make things work. We keep defying the odds.
The expansion issue will have to be settled before the Big East can dive into its TV rights negotiations. The Big East has separate TV deals for football and basketball with ESPN. Each expires in 2013.
The other conferences have been scoring staggering deals over the last year, the latest coming last month when the Pac-12 signed a 12-year, $3 billion deal with Fox and ESPN.
Marinatto said the Big East was close to signing an extension with ESPN but decided to test the market instead. That market is expanding with NBC now stepping into the cable sports network game and Fox looking to add to its inventory.
"Having last bat, last dance, provides us an opportunity to evaluate what everybody else has done," Marinatto said. "Our agreements four years ago were negotiated in a very different marketplace and during a difficult time for our conference.
"We now have a golden opportunity to secure our long-term security," he said. "We can again achieve equity with the other major conferences. ... We can't make a mistake this time."