The seven non-football members of the Big East conference have voted to go their own way. The presidents of Georgetown, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, Marquette and DePaul released a joint statement, saying:
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.
League commissioner Michael Aresco issued a formal response, saying:
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.
According to league bylaws, the seven will depart the league in June of 2015 - which means two more impossibly awkward seasons of "Big East" hoops.
That settles it, right?
Still to be determined - what will the new basketball-only league look like? What will happen to the schools left behind in this mass exodus - Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida? Which group of schools will get to keep the Big East name, and all-important NCAA Tournament revenue?
St. John's University president Fr. Donald Harrington will hold a press conference later today which MAY shed some light on those issues.