The seven Big East Conference schools that don’t play top-level college football are leaving the league to pursue a new basketball framework.
The presidents of DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova universities made the announcement today after a unanimous vote.
“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,” the presidents said in a joint statement.
The conference, based in Providence, Rhode Island, was founded in 1979 with a focus on basketball in major Northeast and Mid-Atlantic cities. Six years later it sent three teams to college basketball’s national semifinals: Georgetown, St. John’s and eventual champion Villanova.
Now, all three of those schools are leaving, as unprecedented media-rights deals for football move the spotlight to the 50-yard line and away from the gym.
Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State and Southern Methodist are scheduled to join the Big East for football in July 2013, Tulane and East Carolina in July 2014 and Navy in July 2015, which would create a 13-team league that also includes Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida and Temple.
“We have a strong conference with respected national universities, and are working together to forge the future,” Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “We have a variety of options, and are looking forward with great partnership, collegiality and optimism.”
The Big East is an automatic qualifier for college football’s lucrative Bowl Championship Series, but will lose that status when the sport moves to a new playoff format in 2014 because defections from the league have weakened its power. Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse, all current Big East members, have announced plans to move to other leagues.
That will leave the Big East, which has plans to add other members, as a “group of five” smaller conferences that won’t receive as much money from playoff payout as the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences, according to ESPN. During the 12-year deal that begins in 2014 the five power conferences will average almost $75 million more per year than the “group of five” conferences -- the Big East, Mountain West, Mid-American, Conference USA and Sun Belt -- ESPN said, citing unnamed sources.
The Big East has won 32 national championships in six sports and 137 individual national titles, according to the conference’s website. In addition to Villanova, Georgetown, Connecticut and Syracuse have all won the men’s basketball national championship at least once.