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, two days after their intentions were first reported.
“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 venturing out on their own 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 after the Warriors beat Savannah State in Milwaukee.
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 will attempt to keep the name Big East.
“Thus us truly a unique period in intercollegiate athletics for it has presented us with an incredible opportunity moving to build upon our collective prominence,” Vince Nicastro, Villanova’s director of athlettics, said in a statement.
“The opportunity for Villanova to work with these six schools on a new basketball framework that builds on the great basketball tradition established by the Big East is exciting,” Villanova men’s coach Jay Wright said in a statement. “There is obviously a lot of chance taking place in college athletics right now, and we are looking forward to a great future with these partners.”
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.
“I think what the statement basically says is within the structure of the Big East conference we have the opportunity as a group to exercise a right to, in an orderly fashion, separate from the conference,” Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed said after the Hoyas played in Washington. “The details of all the questions that you’re thinking about, those things have been considered, but now is certainly not the time to discuss those in a public setting.”
There also are millions of dollars in NCAA basketball tournament money and exit fees collected recently that will need to be divvied up.
The latest hit to the Big East leaves Connecticut, also a founding member, 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.
“The basketball institutions have notified us that they plan to withdraw from the Big East,” commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “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.”