News outlets report conflicting details on Big East split

Even JTIII is confused...The seven non-football-playing schools in the Big East, Georgetown among them, plan either to leave or to dissolve the conference, according to reports from ESPN.com and CBSSports.com. A joint announcement could come from the “Catholic seven” schools—DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Villanova—as early as next week, barring an unexpected change.

Historically a basketball powerhouse, the Big East was rocked by the sequential departures of West Virginia, Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville, Rutgers, and Notre Dame. The Catholic seven are reportedly concerned that the addition of several schools with weaker basketball programs (especially Tulane) will damage the league’s reputation and standing over the long term.

Although nearly every media outlet expects a split, the details of a division and the rules surrounding it remain undetermined.

According an ESPN.com source, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco held a conference call with the athletic directors of the remaining and incoming Big East members to inform them that the seven schools plan on leaving the conference.

A two-thirds majority vote is required to dissolve the league altogether, which the seven-member pact holds until July 1, 2013, but, according to another ESPN.com source, the rules governing the dissolution may require at least two votes from non-football-playing members and two football-playing members. Such a requirement would force the Catholic seven to sway two of the full-member, football-playing schools UConn, Cincinnati, and South Florida, which presumably don’t want the Big East to break up.

If the constituent universities vote to dissolve the conference and form a new league, however, the Catholic seven may be able to retain the Big East name, branding rights, and NCAA tournament revenue. If the seven schools simply leave they would be forced to forfeit that revenue and start a conference with their own money.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the seven Catholic schools have already decided to dissolve the league rather than leave, save the last holdout—Georgetown’s own President John DeGioia, who “is struggling with the idea of his school leaving the Big East.”

The Journal Sentinel also reports that Butler and Xavier have already agreed to join the new conference, which will retain its automatic bid to enter the NCAA tournament. Candidates to complete a 10-member or a 12-member conference include Creighton, VCU, Dayton, and St. Louis.

While the new league will not have a traditional brand name like North Carolina and Duke in the ACC or Indiana in the Big Ten, it will feature programs such as Butler, Xavier and the [Marquette] Golden Eagles, which have made the Sweet 16 in each of the past two seasons.

Georgetown also will give clout to a league that will have an automatic NCAA berth and should provide a number of at-large teams to the tournament.

In a press conference yesterday, men’s basketball Head Coach John Thompson III emphasized Georgetown’s objectives over the other schools in the Catholic seven. To whether Georgetown and the other six aligned schools share a common interest, he replied, “In some ways, yes; in some ways, no.” To him, preserving the character of Georgetown’s basketball program is the most important.

While Georgetown carries clout in negotiations as one of the Big East’s original members, Thompson recognized its limitations as a non-football-playing school. “There’s so many factors, because we don’t have football, that we can’t control, there’s so many tables we will not be able to sit at,” he said.

Further details on the nature of the proposed league remain beyond speculation. Although it would look drastically different from the Big East’s current makeup, the new association would retain at least three of the Big East’s seven founding members: Seton Hall, St. John’s, and Georgetown.

Keep with Vox for updates concerning the Big East’s realignment.

Photo: Hilary Nakasone

Reporting by Kevin Joseph

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