MORGANTOWN - The presidents of the Big East's 14 member schools, including West Virginia and Louisville, voted unanimously Monday night to raise the exit fee for anyone wishing to leave the league from $5 million to $10 million.
The vote apparently comes with a stipulation, though. Before it goes into effect, at least one of the country's three major service academies, either Navy or Air Force, has to agree to join the league.
Meeting via a conference call, the league's presidents voted to double the exit fee in order to send a signal to potential new members that the conference is stable and that its members - particularly the six remaining FBS-level football programs - are committed to staying together.
The conference is apparently ready to extend invitations to six schools. Navy and Air Force would be asked to join as football-only members, along with Boise State. Central Florida, Houston and SMU would be invited as full members.
The thinking behind making the higher exit fee contingent upon a commitment from Navy or Air Force - and preferably both - is that commitments from those two schools would further stabilize the league. That could then help persuade Boise State to join, and the Broncos are crucial to helping the Big East keep its automatic-qualifying status in the BCS.
Central Florida already appears more than willing to join the league, while Houston and SMU would likely agree, too, if the service academies and Boise State are on board.
There is no timetable for extending those invitations, but most observers believe it will be soon. Big East commissioner John Marinatto has scheduled a conference call with the media for this afternoon to discuss the league's realignment issues.
There had been speculation that at least one school, Louisville, would not participate in the call. The Cardinals are believed to be a candidate for inclusion should the Big 12 expand to 12 members or need to replace Missouri in order to remain at 10. West Virginia has also been mentioned in those discussions, but both schools participated in the call and voted for the proposal to double the exit fee.
Still, the higher exit fee may not save the conference.