The seven Catholic, non-football members of the Big East Conference have decided to announce their departure from the league, according to two officials with knowledge of the discussions. The two spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the talks were supposed to remain confidential.
The question is how to do it and when, with several legal entanglements making the breakup complex and potentially messy. An announcement that Villanova, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence, Georgetown and DePaul plan to break away is not likely to happen until the schools decide how they want to proceed.
Though commissioner Michael Aresco spent Thursday trying to get that group of schools to slow down and reconsider, a high-ranking person at a school moving to the Big East in 2013 told USA TODAY Sports the football schools are operating under the impression that a breakup is imminent. The person also spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the confidentiality of the talks.
The decision to separate comes after years of speculation that the non-football side would go it alone, though it didn’t start to become reality until they met with Aresco on Sunday night in New York with a sense of unity they had not previously felt or displayed.
Despite Aresco’s efforts to produce a compromise, the Big East’s mish-mash of schools and all-sports additions have left the basketball side feeling powerless and unstable in the football environment, especially in light of the recent defections by Rutgers and Louisville to the Big Ten and ACC, respectively. Last year, Pittsburgh and Syracuse agreed to join the ACC, and Notre Dame is moving its non-football sports to that league.
Instead, the non-football schools are expected to explore the possibility of adding Xavier and perhaps two other schools from the Atlantic 10, allowing them to control their own future without the football realignment frenzy.
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