The Big East is becoming the Catholic 7—at least in basketball—and will retain the name of the conference it is leaving when moving on to bigger and better things away from current Big East leadership.
UPDATE: Tuesday, March 12, at 10:38 a.m. ET by Ethan Grant
Per this report from the Providence Journal, the Presidents of the "Catholic 7" have released a statement about the future of the conference, complete with expectations of a new TV deal and more teams in the near future:
The Presidents of the Big East Conference this morning formally approved an agreement that will allow the seven basketball schools - DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova - to establish a new conference that will begin play in the 2013-14 academic year under the "Big East" name.
The seven basketball schools, which include many of the original founding schools of the Big East, have unanimously established the goal of continuing the storied legacy and time-honored traditions of athletic competition so closely associated with the Big East, including being the home of the very best college basketball in the nation.
Details about the expected broadcast media deal, season-ending tournament and additional members of the new conference will be announced in the near future.
---End of update---
UPDATE: Friday, March 8, at 12:15 p.m. ET by Matt Fitzgerald
The Big East split has been made official, as reported by Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune:
Brian Hamilton @BrianHamiltonSI
Catholic 7, Big East separation is, at long last, official, per a release from the Big East.2013-3-8 17:11:10
The USA TODAY's Daniel Uthman logged an excerpt from the statement released by the Big East and the Catholic 7 presidents that Hamilton refers to:
We are grateful to Commissioner Michael Aresco for spearheading an agreement that truly represents the best path forward for each of our great institutions and the thousands of student-athletes who compete for our schools annually. It is a great credit to Mike, our colleagues, and all involved that we were able to work through a host of highly complex and time-sensitive issues in such a short period of time. We are pleased that we reached this amicable and mutually-beneficial separation by approaching each issue with a spirit of cooperation and shared respect.
---End of Update---
ESPN's Brett McMurphy, who is reporting that the Big East has agreed to a summer departure for the seven Catholic schools (Georgetown, DePaul, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova) that will allow the group to keep the Big East name and host its tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Here's an excerpt from McMurphy's report, seemingly opening the door for yet another conference realignment in college sports:
The seven schools will depart on June 30 and will begin their new league on July 1, sources said. They are expected to add Butler and Xavier and likely Creighton to have at least a 10-team basketball league for the 2013-14 season, according to sources...Dayton and St. Louis are the leading candidates to increase the league's membership to 12 teams for the 2014-15 season, sources said.
For those of you counting at home, here's what the new Big East would look like in basketball next season (including the new proposed additions to the Catholic 7 for the 2013-14 season):
What this would mean for the current Big East schools is unknown. Since the conference has agreed to send the name with the departing schools, Big East officials will have to come up with a new name for the league prior to July 1.
The move to leave and take the Big East name also holds major consequences when it comes to TV deals. According to the ESPN release on its agreement with the Big East (published on Feb. 23), most of the figures were contingent on the Catholic 7 staying in place for next season.
That revelation will likely cost the teams that are staying some significant revenue sharing, not to mention any potential fallout from either side stemming from the fact that the current remaining agreement between ESPN and the "Big East" will belong to the league that is changing names.
Conversely, the Catholic 7 are reportedly on the verge of striking it rich to the tune of a deal with Fox Sports (via Mark Blaudschun of USA Today).
There are many moving parts to this story. While the seven schools that are leaving the Big East are the only ones that are confirmed to be starting this new Big East on June 30, there's little doubt that mid-majors like Butler want to get involved for program stability and recruiting purposes.
For the teams sticking around, it appears that things are going to continue to change. Wednesday's report confirmed that the Catholic 7 are indeed moving closer to new life and a new conference.
Even if they take the name when they go.