The nail in the Big East’s coffin was all but set earlier this week, but Saturday’s announcement that the conference’s seven Catholic, basketball-only schools would leave in 2015 was the official end point. The schools – Providence, DePaul, Marquette, Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova and Seton Hall – will pursue a basketball-specific route with a new conference when they leave in three years time.
Because of other former Big East members’ recent departures–and the authority the seven schools still retain in the conference many helped found–the Catholic universities will collect an unspecified amount of departure fee and NCAA Tournament money before starting anew. None of them have to pay exit fees per the Big East’s bylaws that schools leaving in a group are exempt.
Not to skew words, but there will be some iteration of the league over the next few years as schools like Louisville, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Syracuse all begin their exodus. The decision doesn’t dissolve the “Big East,” but leaves college sports fans wondering: what the Hell do we call it?
The conference is a shadow of its former self, and only Connecticut remains as an original member of the conference that was founded in 1979. Cincinnati’s still there, but outside of those two schools the Big East is a mix of regionally–and athletically–disparate universities that looks like some hobgoblin bastard child of Conference USA.
But this is the current era of conference realignment, with the Big East and its basketball bearing the brunt of most of its shape-shifting. It seems eons ago that the conference was a football powerhouse–with Miami and Virginia Tech seemingly stuck in neutral since their moves away in 2004–and now the conference’s premiere event, the season-ending conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, will become distant memory, too. It’s a sad day, but that’s how the sh*t has hit the fan. Too bad. Maybe the newly formed conference–with the potential additions of Atlantic-10 basketball powers like Xavier, Dayton and Butler–will rekindle some of the mystique the Big East had in the Garden with its own postseason spectacular.
However, nothing beats the original, no matter how many of the integral parts are there.