The seven Big East schools that don’t play major college football are separating from the conference many of them founded so they can build a league focused on basketball.
The presidents of the seven schools made the announcement Saturday.
“Earlier today we voted unanimously to pursue an orderly evolution to a foundation of basketball schools that honors the history and tradition on which the Big East was established,” a statement said. “Under the context of conference realignment, we believe pursuing a new basketball framework that builds on this tradition of excellence and competition is the best way forward.”
The seven schools leaving are: Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall and Providence.
“The institutions that have been committed to men’s basketball have made a decision that they are going to continue to stay committed to men’s basketball,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said.
Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Providence helped form the Big East, which started playing basketball in 1979. Villanova joined in 1980, and Marquette and DePaul in 2005. The Big East began playing football in 1991.
The basketball schools gave no details about their plans, such as when they want to depart and whether they want to keep the name Big East.
“St. John’s would love to keep the Big East name,” said the Rev. Donald J. Harrington, the president of St. John’s, who emphasized he was speaking only for his school.
Big East bylaws require departing members give the conference 27 months’ notice, but the league has negotiated early departures with Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia over the past year. Those schools all had to pay exit fees. Big East rules do allow schools to leave as a group without being obligated to pay exit fees.
The latest hit to the Big East leaves Connecticut, , Cincinnati, Temple and South Florida – the four current members with FBS football programs – as the only schools currently in the Big East that are scheduled to be there beyond the 2013-14 school year.
As for the departing seven, there has already been speculation they will try to align with other Catholic schools that have strong basketball programs, such as Xavier, Dayton, Creighton and even Gonzaga, despite the latter’s long distance from the other schools.