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December 17, 2012UCF isn't quite sure who will be in the neighborhood, but they know they're still moving up.
Plenty of questions surround the future of the Big East, but men's basketball coach Donnie Jones says he remains confident they will be surrounded by good company.
The league has been in a state of transition with the recent announced departures of Louisville (ACC), Notre Dame (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) and this past weekend the seven non-football schools - DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova - declared their intent to form a new league.
"Whoever is here, we'll play," Jones said. "We have no control over that. We've got a great league already with Cincinnati and UConn coming back. You're adding Temple and Memphis. It's still a four or five-bid league for NCAA purposes."
For now, UCF is set to join a league on July 1, 2013 that includes existing members Cincinnati, Connecticut and South Florida as well as fellow newcomers Houston, Memphis, SMU and Temple. Tulane is scheduled to become an all-sports member the following year.
"I still think it's a huge jump for us," Jones said. "We'll have a chance to play in a great basketball conference. Obviously football is the key with how we're able to generate the funds and the BCS situation, that's something they've still got to work out, but from a basketball standpoint I still think we've got a great opportunity."
Much remains to sort out.
The initial thought is the league would remain largely intact for the 2013-14 season, though the New York Post reported over the weekend the split between the football and non-football members could be immediate.
Per league bylaws, there are no exit fees as long as the departing schools agree to the 27-month waiting period, but most figure they'll pay in order to leave by 2014-15.
This is the Big East's final season under their current television contract, which is in the process being renegotiated. Is it possible to sign a deal knowing 10 of your current members are planning to depart?
There are other issues in play, such as distribution of previous exit-fee money, who will retain the rights to the name "Big East" (if the football schools even still want it) and who gets to play their postseason tournament in New York's Madison Square Garden.
Further expansion is a strong possibility. East Carolina, currently slated to join for just football, could receive an all-sports invite.
It's also conceivable UCF could play in a league that spans coast-to-coast. There's been speculation Big East commissioner Mike Aresco could look to build a western all-sports division by surrounding Boise State and San Diego State with regional partners. Candidates could include BYU, Air Force, Fresno State, UNLV, New Mexico and others.
Regardless, Jones says the trajectory of UCF basketball remains upward.
"We will continue to sell like we have since we arrived," Jones said. "We've been trying to build our program to compete nationally, regardless of what conference we're in, and to be able to play on a national scale. We've proven that we've been able to do that the last couple years. We've been able to play a national schedule and have been very competitive with wins here and there against some very good programs.
"I think with where we're located and what we've got to offer here, there's a great opportunity for a lot of very good players to come in here. We've got to develop our players. We don't get five-star players here every year. You've got to make them five-star guys. We've got to continue to develop our kids and grow our program."