As if the Big East hasn't taken enough hits lately, with schools like Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Louisville, Syracuse and others bailing, six non-FBS catholic schools, including Villanova, who have helped turn the conference into a basketball powerhouse, announced on Thursday that they will be departing as well.
Nova, along with Marquette, Georgetown, St. John's, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul decided to make a change after meeting with Big East commissioner Mike Aresco after a projections of a new TV deal were so much lower than the current deal in place with ESPN. Representatives from each school met again on Sunday and after deliberating for most of the week, they have decided to make a split. The only thing that hasn't been decided yet is when and how the split will take place.
According to USA Today's Mark Blaudschun, there are a couple ways the seven catholic schools could go about this.
One way would be to withdraw as a group, which would include no exit fees, thanks to a rule pushed by former commissioner Mike Tranghese in 2003, but there would be a two-year waiting period, and in those two years, the seven schools would be denied any portion of the exit fees payed by schools like West Virginia, Louisville, Syracuse or any other schools that are now desperately clawing their way out, like Cincinnati. They would also not be able to take advantage of the "Big East" name, which comes along with automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
The second, Blaudschun writes, is much more radical:
The Catholic schools could vote to dissolve the league. With 7 votes out of 10 being cast (Connecticut, South Florida and Cincinnati are the other), the Catholic schools would have the ⅔ majority to pass that measure.
Once that was done, the outstanding bills of the league would be paid and the assets would then be divided among the 10 members. But everything else disappears including the current agreements in place with football and basketball, naming rights for each conference and the issue of not only spots in the new football system of playoffs and bowl games as well as the NCAA tournament spot which is guaranteed to the Big East tournament champion.
It is currently unclear as to how the Catholic schools will make their split from the Big East and when that split will take place. However, what is fairly clear is that the Big East's run as a major conference in both college basketball and football is all but over.