Big East Catholic schools breaking away?

In what could be the first step towards the collapse of the Big East football/basketball structure, officials of the 7 non-football playing Big East basketball schools held a meeting in New York on Sunday to discuss breaking off on their own. According to sources familiar with the talks, the conference included not only athletic directors, but Presidents  and Big East commissioner Mike Aresco as well.

A time frame of six months was set up  to make a decision whether to break off on their own or continue to stay within the frame work of a conference whose configuration has changed steadily over the last several months. That time frame may be predicated on the nature of a new television football/basketball contract the Big East is currently trying to put together.

The group of 7 schools includes: Marquette, St. John’s, Providence, Georgetown, Villanova, DePaul and Seton Hall. Those schools are concerned about the defection of the core of the Big East basketball conference–Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame as well as the expansion of the conference in football to 12 teams and the inclusion of schools such as Central Florida, Memphis, SMU, Houston and Temple in basketball.

With the poaching of Big East schools by the ACC and the Big Ten and the expansion of the Big East in football and basketball far beyond the northeast and Midwest geographical area the Big East had established in basketball as well as the loss of traditional rivalries such as Georgetown and Syracuse, the Catholic schools have considered making a break for the past few years. But no school seemed to be willing to take the first step. But after a fall in which Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame–all considered prime partners in Big East basketball–all defected, the time frame for a change has apparently speeded up.

The Big East tried to avoid the breakaway by telling the Catholic schools it wanted to set up “mirror” games against its other Catholic rivals, meaning a home and home series among the 7 Catholic Schools. Whether that will be enough to keep the conference together is uncertain. Aresco has tried to sell this concept to the Catholic schools, telling them they can still have traditional rivals while playing under the Big East football umbrella. Whether Aresco made his case also remains to be seen.

If the schools do break away, they would need to add at least one and probably as many as three additional schools. Already mentioned as possible candidates would be Dayton, St. Louis, Xavier and George Mason.

The other problem the Big East must also deal with is how the prospects of a break away by the Catholic schools would affect the current negotiations for a new television contract.

© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.

  36 comments for “Big East Catholic schools breaking away?

  1. December 12, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Pretty much skim the top off the A-10 and call it the Big East.

  2. Brian
    December 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Among others (including St Joe’s, Fordham, and St. Bonaventure), Siena College in Albany, NY would be an excellent addition right in the heart of the Big East footprint. They have a very large fan base in the Albany metro area (appx. 1 million people with no pro sports), play in a large and generally packed modern arena (that typically hosts the MAAC tournament and has hosted the NCAA regional games), and are very competitive in most years (have beaten highly ranked teams such as Stanford, Vanderbilt, Ohio Statem etc. in the NCAA tourney).

  3. nick p
    December 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Big East catholic schools finally seeing the writing on the wall?

  4. Greg2600
    December 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    The 7 Catholic BBers plus Cincy, UConn, Temple, Memphis, are all good CBB schools. The league as planned would still have about a dozen decent to good teams, and half dozen total garbage.

    However, the league made a fool of themselves by admitting the other CUSA schools for all sports, because they largely stink…bad. However, I think the KEY is that Uconn, Cincy, and USF are actively working to get out. I think that’s what’s really scared the BB schools.

    If they bolt, I think they need to consider UMass and Xavier for sure from the A10. Problem is beyond that the A10 has very little to offer in terms of TV eyeballs.

  5. jeffrey maciejowski
    December 11, 2012 at 10:18 am

    I remember Ted Sarandis talking about this four years ago… it’s coming true…..

  6. Kal
    December 11, 2012 at 9:26 am

    A new “cities” basketball only conference has the potential to yield much more than what basketball only schools garner now; they already have more in common with regard to history and mission, than the Big East as it will be configured. The 10 schools David noted all have regional ties to big name programs that could support early season round robin tournaments, preseason invitationals, a solid conference tourney, in significant urban markets. If it means giving up the brand name “Big East, let it go – it’s a hollow name that crumbled with the schools that left the conference – a place in time, not found in the markets they expanded to in the mid and far west. St Johns/Georgetown easily fills MSG, while the prospect of playing Butler, in inconic Hinkle Fieldhouse, should fire up any basketball fan/player. Cut a deal with ESPN to either schedule the lead-in 7pm matchup on “big” basketball nights, or focus on the nights when there’s little product to air (as UofL did in football), and its a big winner.

  7. George
    December 11, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Mark. – things BE is you! You should focus all your efforts on the BE, nBE, nnBE, nnnBE etc. skip the stuff you are not good at.

  8. Donta Unbright
    December 11, 2012 at 6:57 am

    I mean I love the idea of the catholic conf but you gotta think Umass needs to find a way to this dinner table. That school needs to play the bigger boys.

    • Ben Dover
      December 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm


    • SJGMoney
      December 11, 2012 at 4:48 pm

      We (UMass) want no part of taking a cruise on thisTitantic. Football drives the bus, the rest is just noise.

    • Tim
      June 15, 2014 at 10:35 pm


      All they need is SLU and UD and they’ll be set at 12.

  9. Ryan
    December 11, 2012 at 12:30 am

    Creighton is a real possibility, too.

    • Shawn
      December 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm

      ha why would creighton leave a conference that pretty much is the leader of? Ha silly boy creighton is going nowhere soon. they are a jesuit school not catholic. with the domination of creighton in the valley welll they wouldn’t leave a conference that they dominate which gets them the opportunity to get an auto-bid or at-large bid into the big dance. count creighton out for this catholic conference

  10. Guy
    December 11, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Please make this happen. The Big East is turning into a joke, a national joke to go along with its bogus nationwide marketing bull crap.

    Have some self respect Catholic schools and disband or break away. Add some good basketball programs that fit your religious, academic and basketball profile like St. Louis, Dayton, Xavier.

  11. jimmie
    December 11, 2012 at 12:16 am

    What makes the BE 7 think they can form a new league without a TV contract, without an auto bid to the dance, without the BE NCAA money units, without a home for their conference tournament – and then invite several A-10 schools to join in the madness and expect immediate acceptance? If all the A-10 invitees turn them down, then what? FYI – take Fordham, oh please take Fordham!

  12. David
    December 10, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Heck just raid the Atlantic 10 for some schools and they’d be good to go!

  13. David
    December 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    I forgot about Dayton too! This would be a great conference!

  14. David
    December 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    If those 7 seven schools can find it in them to reach out to Xavier (OH), Butler (IN), Fordham (NY), St. Joseph’s (PA) and Davidson (NC) or St. Bonaventure (NY), that would be a pretty good-looking league.

    Marquette (WI)
    DePaul (IL)
    Butler (IN)
    Xavier (OH)
    St. Joseph’s (PA)
    Villanova (PA)

    Providence (RI)
    St. John’s (NY)
    Fordham (NY)
    Seton Hall (NJ)
    Georgetown (DC)
    Davidson (NC)

    Blauds, you’ve gotta whisper this in the ears of those who are listening, this coulde be a goldmine of a conference….hell I could give you 4 more and make a Catholic Superconference if you want.

    • Tim V
      December 11, 2012 at 1:30 am

      I’m thinking, let’s go for the gusto and have an 18 team conference, 2 9-team divisions. Here’s my list: Eastern Division consists of Georgetown, St. John’s, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, St Joe’s (Philly), LaSalle and Fordham. Western Division consists of Dayton, Xavier, Duesquene, Marquette, DePaul, Detroit, St. Louis and Creighton. You’re now in every major TV market in the northeast and midwest, and these are teams that would again be playing their old natural rivals. Big East would be done, thank goodness and I never liked the A-10, too much of a mix of schools not being traditional rivals. Butler and Davidson, good basketball schools but both non-Catholic, unless you’re going for the ecumenical approach…Not sure about a name, but think Fish Eaters division would be one good one. Let’s give that to the Eastern schools, since they’re closer to the ocean! LOL…

      • Tim V
        December 11, 2012 at 1:45 am

        In fact, add St. Bonaventure in the east and Loyola (Chi) in the west to make 20 teams. Then have 4 5-team divisions, geographically based. For the conference schedule, you play the 4 teams in your own division twice, and 1 geme against two other divisions, rotating the third division in a following year. That gives you 18 games, a nice number for a regular season conference schedule. As for conference tournament, it’s an easy one to bracket, the 4th and 5th place teams play the 4 first round games, while the top 3 teams in each division have the first round bye. You’re then to 16 teams and it’s easy to do. Would be similiar to the 18 team BE conference tournament, where UConn won 5 games a couple of years ago to win BE tournament, then won NC.

        • Shawn
          December 11, 2012 at 12:27 pm

          or they could forget the division thing because divisions don’t essentially matter in basketball since all of the teams would be in the conference tournament. then you know do lsystem where the top four teams get a one round bye and the rest of the field well plays the first round and the winner of the game 5 20 play the 1 seed Winner of 6 19 play the 2 seed 7 18 plays the 3 seed and the 8 17 plays the 4 seed but a 20 team conference will never happen i can guarantee you that at least not in the foreseeable future those catholic schools are more likely to join other major conferences like the SEC B1G or Big 12 you know where they can have their games on tv.

    • Jason
      December 11, 2012 at 9:25 am

      Except neither Butler or Davidson are Catholic schools. Butler has no religious affliation; and while Davidson was founded by the Prebyterian church; it only maintaisn a loose affliation with that organization today. So much for an all Catholic super conference

    • Art
      December 11, 2012 at 10:00 am

      Villanova in the East, Davidson in the West …

    • xyz
      December 11, 2012 at 11:06 am

      add in St Bonnies….a final 4 team . .. . .. in 1970 (blauds probably was at the game)

    • xyz
      December 11, 2012 at 11:46 am

      Holy Cross too – an original BE member, if fleetingly

    • Tim
      June 15, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      The Big East wanted to stay at 10 for the round robin. If I could have picked the three they added I would have picked Xavier, Saint Louis (rivals of DePaul and Marquette from their C-USA days and not too far from Creighton), and Creighton. With Butler (non-Catholic and non-sectarian private but founded by members of the Disciples of Christ, a mainline Protestant Christian sect) and Dayton (one of Xavier’s 2 arch rivals along with Cincinnati, who is in the original Big East’s legal successor, The American). I would prefer a 12 team Big East with an East/West divisional setup. With the East including Dayton, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, and Villanova. If they go beyond 12, Siena College (MAAC) has a great fan base in upstate NY, Canisius College (MAAC) is similar to Siena, but in Buffalo, NY., Niagara U.(MAAC) is a Vincentian university like DePaul & St. John’s,U. of Detroit Mercy (Detroit for athletics) (Horizon League) gives the Big East a Catholic school with Detroit, MI presence, and College of the Holy Cross (Patriot League) would give the Big East a MA presence again (at original Big East meeting in 1979 and declined)
      and the West including Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Marquette, Saint Louis, and Xavier to shake up the way they run the Big East Championship Tournament. Davidson is way too far south (NC) and already committed to joining the Atlantic 10 on July 1, 2014. Fordham is a good academic school but have horrible sports teams. Saint Joseph’s will never be in the Big East as long as Villanova is.

  15. CAG
    December 10, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    good article blaus. a school like temple (which is obviously going to be left out in the cold football-wise) has a tough decision about joining this conference or being relegated to basketball mediocrity too. these 7 could add dayton and xavier and get a very strong foundation. plus, if uconn gets left out in the cold, they could go football independent and other sports to this league.

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