Big East basketball schools venture out

A Big East Conference logo is displayed on the court after Georgetown played Western Carolina in Washington on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Show caption
A Big East Conference logo is displayed on the court after Georgetown played Western Carolina in Washington on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The seven Big East schools that don’t play major college football are separating from the conference many of them founded so they can build a league focused on basketball.

The presidents of the seven schools made the announcement Saturday, two days after their intentions were reported.

“Earlier today we voted unanimously to pursue an orderly evolution to a foundation of basketball schools that honors the history and tradition on which the Big East was established,” a statement said. “Under the 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 seven schools venturing out on their own are Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall and Providence.

Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Providence helped form the Big East, which started playing basketball in 1979. Villanova joined in 1980 and Marquette and DePaul arrived in 2005. The Big East began playing football in 1991.

The basketball schools gave no details about their plans, such as when they want to depart and whether they will attempt to keep the conference name.

Big East bylaws require departing members give the conference 27 months’ notice, but the league has negotiated early departures with Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia in the past year. There also are millions of dollars in NCAA Tournament money and exit fees collected recently that will need to be divvied up.

The latest hit to the Big East leaves Connecticut, also a founding member, Cincinnati, Temple and South Florida — the four current members with FBS football programs — as the only schools currently in the Big East that are set to be there beyond the 2013-14 school year.

The Big East is still lined up to have a 12-team football conference next season with six new members, including Boise State and San Diego State for football only. Rutgers and Louisville, which announced intentions to leave the Big East last month, are scheduled to compete in the conference next year.

Notre Dame, moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference, also is expected to continue competing in the Big East next season in all sports but football and hockey. Also joining the Big East are Memphis, Central Florida, Houston and SMU for all sports.

As for the departing seven, there has been speculation they will align with other Catholic schools with strong basketball programs, such as Xavier, Dayton, Creighton or even Gonzaga.