LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- It appears seven Catholic non-football schools are poised to go in peace from the Big East Conference.
The New York Post and CBS Sports are reporting that the non-football playing members of the Big East, four of them founding members of the league, could announce as early as this afternoon that they are leaving the conference. Unclear is whether those seven schools in all will use their authority to vote to dissolve the league altogether, which would create an opportunity for them to hang onto their NCAA Tournament monetary shares and perhaps to negotiate their own basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden.
Also unclear is what happens to the Big East Conference name.
(Ramifications for the University of Louisville, which has informed the Big East it will leave the conference after the 2013-14 season to join the ACC., also are unclear. Rutgers currently is suing the Big East over exit fees and wait time before it may leave to join the Big Ten, and Maryland has filed a similar lawsuit against the ACC. Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey told ESPN today that the developments could bump up the moves of U of L and Notre Dame to the ACC next season.)
Though it has been long predicted, news of the Big East's ultimate demise likely will be met with disappointment. The Big East was a perfectly good -- and necessary -- collection of Northeast and East Coast schools that had success in every marquee sport. It is a casualty of the mad, mad world of money maneuvering in college sports, and perhaps the greatest casualty.
The Big East, the Conference, is a dead league walking.
The Big East name, however, ought to live on.
It's just one reason that these basketball programs need to act wisely. The Big East as we know it is going away, but the name still has some value. And for those of us who still appreciate so quaint a notion, the name still has some history, too.
The seven basketball schools in question are these: Georgetown, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova, DePaul and Marquette. The first four of those schools were founding members, and Villanova joined a year after the Big East was founded.
On the football side is a group of 12 schools that contains only one original Big East member -- Connecticut.
In other words, those Catholic schools have the greater historic claim to the name "Big East," and in fact make up more of the league's national identity than their 12 football-playing brethren.
Moreover, the Big East -- while it achieved success in football behind the development of Miami, Virginia Tech and others -- has long been seen as a basketball league. It has been judged the best conference in college basketball on numerous occasions.
If the Big East is to continue as a college sports brand, it should do so with that group of seven, a group, by the way, that cannot so much be judged as "leaving" the Big East as having had its conference fall apart around it. If anything, at this point, the departure of those basketball schools could be considered the best choice for the Big East to continue, at least in name.
The whole question is a legal nightmare. Will those schools leave and the Big East continue with its football membership? Will their departure frighten off new members, or relieve them?
And there's more at stake than a name. The Big East's basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden surely belongs in the custody of these basketball schools, rather than a group of programs simply trying to cling to the organization in some kind of unwieldy football alliance. These seven schools, moreover, likely would take the Big East's automatic NCAA Tournament bid with them if they left, according to Pete Thamel, who examined many of these issues for SI.com.
The fight, as all college sports fights seem to be these days, will be waged over money. Who gets the exit fees of schools leaving? What happens with NCAA Tournament shares from basketball?
The Big East's very headquarters have been located in Providence, R.I., and now Providence is proposing to leave. It could be a case of the last one out of the office should turn out the lights. Literally.
If nothing else, a basketball-first league with the Big East name would seem an appropriate outcome, and a dignified resting place for a conference that deserved a better fate.
But it's going to take time. These seven basketball schools still could benefit financially, even from this unholy new Big East conglomeration.
In the end, however, the only interpretation that makes sense is that the spirit and name of the Big East is more appropriately represented by those seven members now considering secession than those others more recently joined.
Then again, outcomes that make sense are in short supply in college sports.