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Big East departures now all about timing

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,College,Brian McNally

Now that the seven non-FBS football schools in the Big East have decided to leave the conference, it is time to start figuring out the details. Those were in short supply when the presidents of Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Marquette, DePaul, Seton Hall and Providence unanimously voted to leave Saturday. But it won't remain that way for long.

According to ESPN, the schools won't be able to leave the conference until June 30, 2015. But we've heard that so often in these situations, and in almost every recent case the school leaving a conference is able to negotiate its way out early. West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh are three recent Big East defections who did so. West Virginia paid $20 million to go to the Big 12. The other two paid $7.5 million to reduce the conference's 27-month waiting period and will begin play in the ACC next year.

But there's a different dynamic at play here. Will the Big East exist at all to keep these seven schools in place until 2015 or even prevent them from assuming the Big East's identity and contracts? Rutgers, Louisville and -- in everything but football -- Notre Dame will all try to grease their exits in time for next fall. Rutgers is headed to the Big Ten and Louisville and Notre Dame to the ACC.

If the seven football schools the conference expects to add next year rethink their decision, then there won't be a conference left anyway. Memphis, Temple, SMU, Central Florida and Houston are joining the Big East as full-time members. Boise State and San Diego State will be football-members only in 2013.

Connecticut and Cincinnati, of course, remain in the Big East. But both of those schools were openly lobbying to join the ACC last month before Louisville won those sweepstakes. If a spot there comes open again, why would they stay? In the modern-day NCAA, it's difficult for even the most seasoned administrator to look that far ahead.

"That's what we get paid to do," Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed said. "I don't think we've been forced anywhere. I think we've reassessed where we want to be. We've been consistent in who we are and where we want to go."

- Brian McNally

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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