Big East presidents to discuss future

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The presidents of the Big East member schools will discuss the future of the conference at a meeting this weekend, UConn president Susan Herbst said Wednesday.

Herbst, in an email to The Associated Press, said the meeting in Washington on Sunday is a confidential gathering for conference presidents only and will not involve other university officials.

"We have to talk about the future and how to go forward as a strong Big East," she wrote.

Last week, the Big East presidents and athletic directors met at a hastily called meeting in New York City to discuss strategies for restocking the league after Syracuse and Pittsburgh said they are leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After that meeting, commissioner John Marinatto said the schools had committed to going forward as a group and recruiting new members. Navy and Air Force are the Big East's top targets for expansion.

But multiple officials at Connecticut said the school did not agree to stay in the Big East Conference, and earlier this week Gov. Dannel P. Malloy confirmed that UConn has expressed interest in joining the ACC if it expands further from 14 to 16 teams.

Herbst on Wednesday assured members of the school's board of trustees that UConn is still working with the Big East, and urged them to "ignore the gossip on the national scene."

"Big East presidents have been engaged in frequent communication by phone or in person," she said. "We're committed together to make the Big East work, to make it stronger in spite of the announcement that Syracuse and Pittsburgh will leave to go to the ACC."

Malloy said this week that he did not expect the issue of conference realignment to be resolved quickly, and said he suspected further expansion of the ACC might hinge on whether Notre Dame was interested in joining that conference.

Herbst reiterated to the board of trustees that she will do what is in the best interests of the school, and its student athletes and "to ensure the successful long term future of the athletic program and to pursue the wishes of this board and our community."

"We'll play somewhere, and we'll be very open and transparent about our needs and our priorities as this moves forward," she said.