Big East looking to expand to 14

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- New Big East commissioner Mike Aresco confirmed Thursday that the conference wants to add a 14th member for football, and is planning to have a championship game after next season.

Aresco spoke with reporters Thursday night before Connecticut's football game with Massachusetts.

"We're looking at a 14th," he said. "I'm not talking about which ones. There are some obvious candidates, but we're not talking about raiding anyone and there are some independents that might potentially want to be a member."

Aresco also said he's confident the teams committed to the Big East, including Connecticut, will stay.

The Big East lost West Virginia to the Big 12, and will lose Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC next season. Connecticut last year expressed an interest in joining the ACC, but has been working with the Big East on its expansion.

"I think they'll stay," Aresco said, "and I think they'll want to stay because I think we'll work hard to keep them here."

The revamped football conference will span four time zones, with Boise State and San Diego State joining for football only, and Central Florida, Memphis, Houston and SMU coming on board for all sports. Navy is set to join for football only in 2015.

Aresco says his two top priorities when he starts work next week are negotiating a lucrative television deal, and making sure the league is recognized as one of the nation's top six football conferences.

The Big East has held a lucrative automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series, but that system is being replaced by a playoff in 2014. As a result, the league no longer will draw postseason revenues equivalent to the Big Ten, Southeastern Conference, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC. But it is still hoping to land a television deal worth upward of a billion dollars.

"You have a pretty huge divide now between our conference and anything below us, and almost no gap between us and what they are calling the Big Five," Aresco said. "We say it's the Big Six. I'm not going to yield on that at all."