NEWS | Catholic 7 Announce Big East Split
Georgetown, Six Other Schools to Form New Conference
Published: Saturday, December 15, 2012
Updated: Sunday, January 6, 2013 02:01
After 33 years, seven conference championships, three Final Four appearances and a national title, Georgetown is leaving the Big East.
The university, in conjunction with Marquette, Villanova, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul, released a statement Saturday afternoon announcing its departure from the storied basketball conference that it helped found and in which it rose to prominence.
“Earlier today we voted unanimously to pursue an orderly evolution to a foundation of basketball schools that honors the history and tradition on which the Big East was established,” the release read. “Under the current context of conference realignment, we believe pursuing a new basketball framework that builds on this tradition of excellence and competition is the best way forward.”
The press release did not address any specifics of the move except to confirm that the schools will be leaving as a group. Whether they will vote to dissolve the conference or simply break off was not specified, although a Big East press release reported that the seven basketball schools would be “withdrawing,” which indicates that the conference itself will remain intact.
Also up in the air is the name of the conference. While the press has dubbed the seceding schools the “Catholic Seven,” it’s unlikely that moniker sticks in the conference naming process, and Athletic Director Lee Reed indicated that the new conference may even keep the Big East name.
Rumors of an imminent conference split swirled all week, with no official word from either the Big East or the Catholic Seven. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on Thursday that the delay was due to University President John J. DeGioia’s reluctance to fully commit to the secession. Reed denied that was the case to reporters at Saturday’s press conference.
“We will always be thoughtful and deliberate,” he said, “but not slow to the table.”
During the press conference — which took place minutes after Georgetown’s 81-68 victory over Western Carolina — DeGioia emailed the entire student body regarding the conference split, mostly repeating the sentiments expressed in the press release.
“Through their many contributions to our community and accomplishments on the court, on the field and in the classroom, our students and athletics staff represent a history of excellence, which is at the core of our programs and our university. This rich tradition will continue to characterize Georgetown,” he wrote.
Reed wouldn’t say how long the split would take, but ESPN’s Brett McMurphy tweeted this afternoon that a departure date sooner than June 30, 2015, would force the schools to negotiate an exit fee with the Big East — something the schools hoped to avoid by leaving as a bloc.
Speculation on which schools the new conference would look to annex is likely to intensify over the next few days. Most experts agree that the conference will look to shore up its basketball reputation — still fairly weak outside of Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova — by adding mid-major powers like Butler, Xavier, Creighton, St. Louis and Gonzaga, all of which have seen tournament success in recent years.
No matter who the new conference adds, what it’s called or how long it takes to form, Georgetown is entering uncharted territory. For the first time since 1979, the Hoyas won’t compete under the Big East banner. But if you’re feeling nostalgic about the glory days of Madison Square Garden, don’t tell ever-stoic Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III.
“This is a decision that is not an emotional decision. ... I'm excited about where we are going to go,” he said. “Georgetown will be an outstanding program whatever the future holds. The stability is on the Hilltop.”