Big East Split Becomes Official

STORY UPDATE (Friday, 12:30 p.m.) The Big East has formally announced the separation of the conference, with the seven Catholic schools departing. By July 1, there will be two new conferences, but the seven Catholic basketball schools will keep the Big East name.

Here's the statement from the Big East on Friday:

Big East Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco today announced 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. The separation will become effective on July 1, 2013.

The agreement, which remains subject to formal Board approval, contemplates continued cooperation and playing opportunities between the conferences.

"I am pleased that this agreement has been reached," said Aresco. "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. We part ways as friends and colleagues and look forward to the success of both conferences."

The Presidents of the seven basketball universities released the following statement regarding their formal separation: "We are grateful to Commissioner Michael Aresco for spearheading an agreement that 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. We are pleased that we reached this amicable and mutually-beneficial separation by approaching each issue with a spirit of cooperation and shared respect."

Aresco also issued this statement:

"We have not chosen a new conference name at this time and there are no favorites. We are going through a thoughtful evaluation of potential names for our conference, 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. We are excited about the prospect of re-branding and look forward to working with our institutions and our fans as we engage in this process."

That statement was in response to reports that the new conference might be named the America 12.

There are many ramifications, but let's begin with the upcoming week.

Connecticut was a charter member of the Big East, which began with basketball play in 1979-80. The UConn men, banned from postseason play, will end their season Saturday at Gampel Pavilion. The Huskies will play Providence in their final Big East game ever.

The UConn women, the flagship program of Big East women's basketball, will play in their final Big East championship tournament at the XL Center. Play begins this weekend, with the Huskies playing their first game Sunday.

And next week's Big East men's tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York will be the last of its kind, with Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame headed to the ACC, Rutgers headed to the Big Ten, and, of course, the seven Catholic schools forming a new Big East.

UConn, winner of seven tournament titles, will not participate. The Big East voted to ban the Huskies after the NCAA sanctions were handed down.

There also was a report that "America 12 Conference" is being considered as the name for UConn's new conference.

According to an ESPN report, the deal is expected to be announced Thursday.

The seven schools -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova -- will be able to keep the Big East name and play their basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden, according to the report.

They are expected to add current Atlantic 10 members Butler and Xavier and probably Creighton to have at least a 10-team basketball league for the 2013-14 season, the ESPN sources said.

The new Big East, which will begin their new league on July 1, could add Dayton and St. Louis for the 2014-15 season.

The remaining schools in the Big East will have 10 members in 2014: Connecticut, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane and UCF. Navy will join in 2015, and Tulsa could join in 2014 or 2015. The current Big East will have to come up with a new conference name by July 1, according to the report.

It was in December when the seven non-FBS football schools decided that enough was enough and decided to part with the current Big East to pursue a new basketball-featured framework.

Over the course of the past 14 months, the Big East has had West Virginia depart for the Big 12 and three other football members -- Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville -- announce plans to leave for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Additionally, Rutgers accepted an invitation to join an expanded Big Ten and Notre Dame -- a Big East member in all sports except football -- also decided to join the ACC under those same stipulations.

The Big East formed in 1979, primarily as a men's basketball conference, with Syracuse, Georgetown, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall, Connecticut and Boston College as original members. It has grown exponentially, adding and subtracting members along the way, prior to its current configuration of 16 teams. Despite the latest defections, the conference had planned a 12-team football league for next year with holdovers Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida and Temple -- which was football-only in 2012 -- joined by soon-to-be departing Louisville and Rutgers as well as incoming Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Boise State and San Diego State.

However, Boise State and San Diego State elected to remain in the Mountain West. Louisville and Rutgers are set to stay in the Big East for the 2013-14 academic year before departing to their respective new leagues, but could now seek to opt out this summer, although football schedules for the ACC and Big Ten have already been formulated for the fall.

In essence, the remaining members of the old Big East, left to form a new conference, would be Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida, Temple, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis and SMU.

Fox News report included in this article.

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