Time frame, configuration remains unknown
The signs have been obvious for months as one member of the Big East after another has departed. On Saturday, the breakup finally came. Now only the when and where remains to be decided.
The seven members of the Big East that don't play FBS football -- Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, DePaul and Marquette -- notified conference commissioner Michael Aresco that they voted unanimously Saturday to withdraw.
Their goal is to "pursue an orderly evolution to a foundation of basketball schools that honors the history and tradition on which the Big East was established," according to a joint statement issued by the presidents of each university. However, the exact details of that move, including which other schools, if any, would join them in a new league, remain uncertain and may for some time.
"After a lot of consideration, keeping a careful eye on the national landscape as it relates to conference realignment, what our history has been, we [wanted] to get to a place where there was a focus on where we are and what we are philosophically in terms of our model of intercollegiate athletics," Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed said.
The move is for almost all sports, according to Reed, not just basketball. Georgetown's football team, however, will remain a member of the FCS' Patriot League. Reed also declined to say whether the departing members will fight to keep the Big East Conference name, history and television contracts or be forced to start anew. Reed insisted there is no specific timeline in mind yet for leaving -- only that the presidents want it done in an "orderly" fashion that limits harm to the remaining schools.
Without the seven basketball schools, there are four current football members -- South Florida, Connecticut, Temple and Cincinnati -- with five more arriving in 2013. East Carolina joins the Big East as a football-only member in 2014, and Navy does the same in 2015. Reed disputed multiple media reports this week that Georgetown was the final holdout among the seven schools to make the break before ultimately deciding it was the right move for the institution.
There is much history being left behind. In 1979, Georgetown became a founding member of the conference, the brain child of former commissioner Dave Gavitt, who wanted a basketball-focused powerhouse with schools playing games in NBA arenas. It worked brilliantly, and by 1985 three conference teams -- Georgetown, Villanova and St. John's -- reached in the NCAA men's basketball Final Four.
Hoyas coach John Thompson III grew up with that history. His father, John Thompson II, won a national title in 1984 and played for two others in a Hall of Fame career. But much of the hard work he put into building the program was done even before Georgetown joined the Big East. Thompson III, who took over as coach in 2004, disputed the notion that he was "sad" about leaving. Earlier in the week Thompson III said the decision had to be made without emotion being a factor.
"Georgetown was an outstanding program before the Big East, we've been an outstanding program during our time in the Big East and we're going to be an outstanding program with whatever tomorrow holds," Thompson III said. "The stability is up on the Hilltop, the stability is within our institution and whoever wants to be with us can be with us."