Updated: Georgetown officially announces departure from Big East
After the Hoyas’ win over Western Carolina this afternoon, Georgetown University informed media of their decision to leave the Big East Conference, in unanimity with the other six, basketball-centric schools of the league.
“I think after a lot of consideration, keeping a careful eye on the national landscape as it relates to conference realignment, what our history has been, I think we were wanting to get to a place where there was a focus on where we are and what we are philosophically in terms of our model of intercollegiate athletics,” Georgetown Athletic Director Lee Reed said.
The writing had been on the wall for months, as constant conference realignment saw the Big East pillaged of many of its crucial members, starting with Syracuse and Pittsburgh’s departures for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and culminating with Rutgers’ defection to the Big Ten and Louisville’s move to the ACC last month.
Over the past week, talks heated up among the presidents of the “Catholic Seven” schools—Georgetown, Villanova, Providence, DePaul, Marquette, St. John’s, and Seton Hall—and conference commissioner Mike Aresco. After a reported conference call between the parties on Thursday, the move became inevitable, though the swift announcement came as a bit of a surprise considering reports of University President John DeGioia’s initial reluctance to leave the conference. Reed denied that story, though, taking exception to the report.
“I think we will always be very thoughtful and deliberate in any decision that we make that has an impact on Georgetown University, so we’ve done that,” he said. “I wouldn’t characterize it on us being slow to the table.”
For Georgetown, the move affects the entire Athletic Department, save for football which will remain in the Patriot League for the time being. All other sports will compete in the new conference.
There are a great deal of legal ramifications to work out with Aresco and the conference in order to officially split from the Big East, meaning there are still some significant hurdles before the schools can move forward with forming their new conference. Many options are still on the table; taking the Big East brand with them is not out of the question.
The move marks a significant step forward for Georgetown, as they officially take the reins on their own destiny and escape a quickly-fading Big East Conference. Despite a feeling of panic among within its fan base, leadership at Georgetown—men’s basketball head coach John Thompson III included—never panicked because of their belief in the Georgetown brand.
“Georgetown was an outstanding program for the Big East,” Thompson said. “We have been an outstanding program during our time in the Big East. And we will be an outstanding program in whatever tomorrow holds. The stability is within our institution. Whoever wants to be with us can be with us.”
Here’s the initial statement from the presidents of the seven schools:
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. Under the current 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.
We are grateful to our Commissioner, Michael Aresco, for his exceptional leadership of the Big East Conference. We have been honored to be associated with the outstanding group of institutions that have made up the Big East. While we pursue this opportunity for our institutions, we believe the efforts of the past two years have established the foundation for an enduring national football conference.
We look forward to building this new foundation with an emphasis on elite competition and a commitment to the development of our students engaged in intercollegiate athletics. That is where we will now spend our energy as we move forward.
Further analysis on the move after the jump, along with statements from DeGioia, and Aresco. We will be updating this post with any further developments.
As Reed noted, announcing their departure was the first step in a long process. He was careful not to pigeonhole the move as a complete dissociation with the Big East, though that may be the ultimate result. Additionally, he and Thompson made a point to move away from the “Catholic Seven” terminology.
“I’m glad to hear you guys acknowledge the common philosophical link is not religion, its basketball,” Thompson told the media. “I’ve felt comfortable with that. Georgetown has never changed in that regard, regardless of whom we’ve been in a conference with or who we will be in a conference with and I think that that’s something that’s been important. I said this the other day, we’re Georgetown. Part of what you guys do in clumping us all together, as much as we’re all stepping out here together, we are very different from the other six schools.”
This means that other basketball-centric schools are viable candidates to join the current group of seven. Shortly after the announcement, reports characterized Atlantic 10 members Butler and Xavier as definite additions to the conference, an advancement from their rumored interest throughout the process.
Here’s the official statement from DeGioia, emailed to the Georgetown community shortly after the announcement:
To the Members of the Georgetown Community
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am writing to share with you recent developments in the Big East Conference, of which Georgetown has been a member since the conference’s founding in 1979.
Earlier today, presidents representing seven Big East universities with strong basketball traditions – Georgetown, DePaul, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, and Villanova – 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. In the current context of national athletic conference realignment, we believe pursuing a new foundation for our intercollegiate athletics that builds on this tradition of excellence and competition is the best way forward.
Georgetown is honored to be associated with the outstanding group of institutions that have made up the Big East Conference for more than three decades and the students and coaches who represent these schools. They are extraordinary competitors and we have benefited from the talent, skills and dedication they have brought to our community.
At Georgetown, we are extremely proud of our students engaged in intercollegiate athletics. We are grateful to the coaches and staff who support them in our Athletics Department, under the exceptional leadership of Director Lee Reed, as they excel academically and in athletic competition. In the last 16 months alone, nearly 50 percent of Georgetown student athletes earned All Big East academic awards. In addition, 11 Georgetown teams competed in NCAA postseason play, winning national championships in women’s cross country and sailing and most recently playing for the national championship in men’s soccer.
Through their many contributions to our community and accomplishments on the court, on the field and in the classroom, our students and athletics staff represent a history of excellence, which is at the core of our programs and our university. This rich tradition will continue to characterize Georgetown. In this spirit, we look forward to establishing this new foundation and to the benefits it will yield for our intercollegiate athletics and our community.
John J. DeGioia
Here are Thompson’s initial remarks on the move after today’s game.
As I said the other day, this is a decision that is not an emotional decision. Getting to this point had nothing to do with Georgetown’s position as a charter member and not wanting to pull apart because of those ties and allegiances. I think at this point, based on the collegiate landscape our leadership believes this is the right thing to do and we believe this is the right thing to do. I’m excited about where we are going to go. There are a lot of questions that still need to be answered, there are a lot of questions that we probably know the answer to, but are not ready to share publicly. This is a new phase that we’re excited to be a part of.
In addition, Aresco released an official statement from the Big East.
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.
Additional reporting by Joe Pollicino and Brendan Crowley
Photo courtesy of Big East Communications Department