Saturday, December 15, 2012

"Catholic 7" announce they are leaving the Big East

After a conference call on Saturday morning, the presidents from the seven non-FBS schools in the Big East officially announced that they have voted to leave the conference.

DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova said they will "pursue an orderly evolution to a foundation of basketball schools that honors the history and tradition on which the Big East was established" in an official statement.

There have been reports that the seven schools will not lay claim to the Big East name although more details on their intentions figure to emerge in the coming days.

The Big East reacted to the news with a statement from Commissioner Mike Aresco

"The basketball institutions have notified us that they plan to withdraw from the Big East Conference.  The membership recognizes their contributions over the long distinguished history of the Big East.  The 13 members of the Conference are confident and united regarding our collective future.  We have a strong Conference with respected national universities, and are working together to forge the future.  We have a variety of options, and are looking forward with great partnership, collegiality and optimism."

Despite Aresco's optimistic awards, the departure of the seven schools leave the Big East on life support.

UConn, Cincinnati and South Florida remain full Big East members. Temple is currently a football-only Big East members with the rest of the sports joining next year. Central Florida, Houston, Memphis and Southern Methodist are scheduled to become full-time Big East members in 2013 with Boise State and San Diego State slated to join the conference as football-only members in 2013. In 2014 Tulane will join as a full-fledged Big East members with East Catholic and Navy slated to join as football-only schools in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

The loss of the "Catholic 7" is the latest blow for the conference. Aresco was hired as commissioner because of his impressive background in the television world. Aresco is in the process of negotiating a new television deal for the Big East but with each exodus of schools, Aresco's job of selling the conference is becoming increasingly more daunting. Assuming the schools pledging to join the Big East don't get cold feet, the conference will be able to move forward albeit at a significantly weakened state.

Here is a statement from UConn president Susan Herbst on the matter:

"The tragedy that took place in Newtown on Friday should be the focus of the thoughts of the people in Connecticut and all Husky fans this weekend.

"The University of Connecticut believes that the BIG EAST Conference will continue to be a strong and exciting conference that is comprised of highly-regarded national universities.

"We ask our fans to steer all passion and concern to Newtown, and we will honor those lost when we gather together as a university community for events this upcoming week."

The seven schools are expected to leave the Big East in 2015 but recent history has shown that those dates are subject to change. The ball is now in the court of the teams who agreed to leave their conferences for the Big East believing it was a step up in conference strength and television money. If the TV deal doesn't make it worth those program's while, there could be no Big East to speak of.


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