East Carolina plans to vie for membership in the Big 12 as the 10-team conference seeks to expand, the university announced Thursday.
“I believe strongly East Carolina deserves to be in the Big 12 as we can deliver the entire state of North Carolina,” athletics director Jeff Compher said in a press release. “We have been positioning ourself to be the next member for the past 12 months and will continue to do so.”
Earlier this week, the Big 12 gave commissioner Bob Bowlsby permission to begin searching for new members. The conference had 12 members as recently as 2011, but fell to 10 after the departures of Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M for other major conferences and subsequent arrivals of Texas Christian and West Virginia.
It is currently composed of teams primarily located in the central U.S., including four in Texas. West Virginia is its easternmost university.
Prior to ECU’s statement, ESPN reported that Brigham Young and Cincinnati were the top candidates to gain membership, with Houston, Connecticut, Central Florida, Memphis and Colorado State as “other hopefuls.”
ECU athletics joined its current conference, the American Athletic Conference, just two years ago after previously being a part of Conference USA.
Unlike the AAC, the Big 12 is generally considered a “Power Five” conference within the Football Bowl Subdivision, the top level of NCAA football, and has an automatic tie-in to the Sugar Bowl.