Villanova, other Big East basketball schools to officially split from football schools on July 1
After weeks of negotiations and rumors, the Big East conference finally confirmed on Friday that its basketball-first members will split away from the conference's football schools as of July 1.
The Big East's press release announcing the separation stated that "after several weeks of cordial and professional discussions, a definitive agreement has been reached that will enable a mutually-beneficial separation of some of the league's current members and allow an orderly formation of a new conference by the seven basketball schools."
Officially, the breakup must be voted on by the conference's board of directors, but that is expected to be a formality.
"With the long-term well-being of our outstanding institutions and their student-athletes of paramount importance, each group worked through a number of complex issues in an orderly, comprehensive and amicable manner marked by mutual respect," current Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said in the press release. "We part ways as friends and colleagues and look forward to the success of both conferences."
The attempt to put a publicly cordial face on the separation was further highlighted by the conference's statement that the separation deal "contemplates continued cooperation and playing opportunities between the conferences."
Although the separation has been coming for some time, the official date was only finalized this week. ESPN.com was first to report the date on Thursday.
The so-called "Catholic 7" - Villanova, Georgetown, St. John's, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette and DePaul - will get to keep the Big East name. They will also retain the rights to play their men's basketball conference tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Those seven schools issued a joint statement as part of the Big East's press release. It said that the separation agreement "truly represents the best path forward for each of our great institutions and the thousands of student-athletes who compete for our schools annually."
"It is a great credit to Mike, our colleagues, and all involved that we were able to work through a host of highly complex and time-sensitive issues in such a short period of time," the statement continued. "We are pleased that we reached this amicable and mutually-beneficial separation by approaching each issue with a spirit of cooperation and shared respect."
Previously, the current Big East's football members had sought to delay the breakup for another year. But between Fox Sports' new TV deal, NCAA Tournament revenue and exit fees paid during previous separations, there is enough money on the table to satisfy all sides.
CBSSports.com reported Thursday that Fox will pay each school in the new Big East approximately $3 million per season.
Both outlets reported that the first season in the new Big East will see Xavier, Butler and Creighton join the All three schools do not have top-level football (if they have football at all), but they do have considerable basketball histories. That is the profile of institution that the conference has sought for new members.
The conference may expand to 12 teams for the 2014-15 season. If that happens, Dayton and Saint Louis are the leading candidates to join as of now.
As for the football schools, Aresco said in a subsequent statement that they "have not chosen a new conference name at this time and there are no favorites."
ESPN.com reported Thursday night that "The America 12" was proposed as a potential name.
"We are going through a thoughtful evaluation of potential names for our conference," Aresco continued, "and will select a name in a timely manner through a comprehensive and deliberate process that involves our presidents and athletic directors as well as constituents from inside and outside the conference."
There also has been no decision on where the conference's men's basketball tournament will take place. The XL Center in Hartford, Conn., and the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., have been rumored as possibilities.
Here is how the landscape will look after the Big East split officially takes place this summer:
Louisville (leaving for the ACC in 2014)
Rutgers (leaving for the Big Ten in 2014)
East Carolina (in 2014)
Tulane (in 2014)
Navy (in 2015 for football only)
Current Big East teams joining the Atlantic Coast Conference
Notre Dame (in 2013 or 2014)