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Will Saturday mean Big East dissolves as new Catholic conference is formed?

0 Comments 14 December 2012

It appears as if they are out: The seven Catholic schools in the Big East (DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova) are expected to be on a scheduled conference call Saturday with Big East commissioner Mike Aresco

to address issues such as who will retain the Big East conference name, exit fees for leaving the current conference structure, usage of Madison Square Garden for a conference basketball tournament, and required waiting periods for various sports leaving the conference without incurring exit fees.  Outright dissolution of the conference is even possible.

The leverage held by the schools is significant, as there is a league clause eliminating exit fees for a collective departure.  But this may not be the option chosen as the schools would have to honor the league’s requirement to provide 27 months notice.  Dissolution of the league by two-thirds vote is also possibly in play, as the schools have the votes required.  Possibly complicating this option is a potential requirement for two FBS and two non-FBS members to be part of that voting block– but dissolving the league might work in favor of a school like the University of South Florida that would be able to then join a conference of its own choice without penalty if the Big East were to simply go away.

Six other Catholic schools are actively discussing joining the outgoing seven Big East Catholic schools to make a national Catholic conference.  Those schools include Xavier, Saint Louis, Dayton, Creighton, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.

How this all impacts men’s and women’s lacrosse will take a while to be sorted out.  Basketball dollars are driving the financial equation for these schools as those dollars pay for the bulk of the other sports programs on campus.  Automatic berths in NCAA tournaments drive conference alignments for each sport, so having six schools active in a sport makes a conference viable.  A more tightly held Big East/National Catholic conference would probably mean more alignment and cooperation in sport offerings.  The already strong men’s and women’s lacrosse presence in the departing seven schools– along with the rapid new start program growth over the past two years (and coming two years), could signal the start of a slew of new Division I men’s and women’s lacrosse programs at this group of schools.  Men’s programs currently exist at Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. Johns and Villanova .  Women’s programs currently exist at Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova – plus Saint Mary’s.  So one more men’s program and two new women’s programs would be needed in a national Catholic league to secure automatic NCAA tournament births.  If the Big East conference name is retained, schools like UConn could stay with the departing seven Catholic schools in a sports like lacrosse where they’d be able to secure membership in a conference with an automatic NCAA tournament birth.

None of these changes will affect the 2013 lacrosse season, but look for these schools to want to get this settled and behind them as quickly as possible.  Saturday news should be truly interesting.

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