The Big East has been trying to gather as many major television markets as possible and New Orleans comes in at 53rd-largest in the country. Tulane also provides a regional rival for Memphis.
East Carolina has been a consistent winner in football and looked to get in the Big East for years. The Pirates have played in a bowl five out of the last six years and finished 8-4 this season, just missing out on a trip to the C-USA title game. The Pirates also have no problem drawing fans, with an average attendance of more than 47,000 per home game.
Holland said East Carolina’s next step is to find an ‘‘equally exciting and competitive environment for the 18 sports other than football.’’
Conference USA had already replaced the previously announced departing members. Next season Louisiana Tech, Florida International, North Texas and Texas-San Antonio will join C-USA, giving it 16 football schools.
In 2014, Old Dominion will join C-USA, and Charlotte is scheduled to join with its fledgling football program in 2015.
‘‘To be clear, we have several options but no new member agreements have been made at this time,’’ C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said. ‘‘We appreciate the support of our members and will immediately begin a presidentially led process to evaluate our future options.’’
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAp