Seven Big East schools considering leaving conference

The basketball-only schools, which are the heart of the conference, appear set to separate and form their own league. The possible effect on Big East football is unclear.

The exact timing of the Big East's imminent implosion is not particularly important.

One outlet reported the news would hit Thursday. Another outlet reported it would not.

The "big" news did not break, as it turned out, but it is breaking.

College sports is about to get hit with another thunder clap of reconfiguration and dismemberment as it appears the Big East's seven basketball-only schools are set to separate and form their own league.

The move could end Big East football as we know it and send another ripple of reconstruction through the ever-changing conference landscape.

The process is messy, almost like a divorce, according to sources.

"It's complex, just because of the differences of the schools in the first place," said a person familiar with the situation who did not want to be quoted because of the sensitive nature of the process.

The seven basketball schools — Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's, Villanova, Georgetown, DePaul and Marquette — represent the heart of the conference dating to its establishment in 1979.

Big East football did not start crowning champions until 1991 (the Catholic schools continue to play football at the Football Championship Subdivision level).

The most likely scenario is the Catholic schools will withdraw from the league and negotiate to keep the Big East name. They would probably add at least three schools to become a 10-team league.

That would seemingly assure the league of keeping its automatic bid status in the NCAA tournament.

Mike Aresco, the Big East's recently appointed commissioner, has tried to hold the basketball schools together as he attempts to negotiate a television deal with what's left of his football division.

The Big East is losing Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Louisville to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Rutgers recently announced it was leaving to join the Big Ten.

The Big East has responded by cobbling together football schools from all across the country. San Diego State and Boise State are set to join the conference next year in football. Other future members include Houston, Southern Methodist, Memphis, Tulane, East Carolina and Central Florida.

Temple, kicked out of the Big East in 2004, has already been invited back.

The basketball schools see the new lineup as a logistical nightmare with no foreseeable financial upside.

Aresco told the schools they could essentially form their own division in basketball with very few crossover games with the football schools.

There will not be enough money in the new television contract, however, to offset the headaches.

CBSports.com recently reported the disjointed Big East might command only $60 million to $80 million per year in its new television deal. That is substantially less than other major conferences have recently negotiated.

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