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St. John’s leaving Big East with other Catholic colleges

TimesLedger Newspapers

The presidents of the Big East’s seven Catholic schools, including St. John’s University, officially announced their decision to leave the conference in a joint statement issued Saturday.

St. John’s, along with DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova, which are considered the conference’s basketball schools, voted unanimously to exit the Big East and part ways with league schools that play major college football to form their own hoops-based league.

Mathnasium

The split, which reportedly will have to wait until Jan. 30, 2015, took place over a philosophical difference with the present 17-school league and its football schools. It was triggered by the recent departure of West Virginia to the Big 12 and the future exits of Notre Dame, Syracuse, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Louisville to play in football power conferences like the ACC and the Big Ten. The “Catholic Seven” decided it was time to chart its own course.

“We believe at St. John’s that it’s important that we shape our future rather than have it happen to us,” St. John’s University President the Rev. Donald J. Harrington said in a conference call.

Harrington said all the league’s presidents would decide moving forward if the timetable would change for the benefit of all. Neither Harrington nor St. John’s Athletic Director Chris Monasch would confirm if the new conference planned on carrying the Big East name, but Harrington said St. John’s would like to keep it. St. John’s, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova helped found the league in 1979. While specific schools were not discussed, Harrington also said the hope was to have 10 to 12 schools in the new conference.

“We know we can’t do it alone,” he said.

The split from the football league could mean a considerable loss of revenue for the seven schools, which would now have to negotiate their own television deals. Harrington and Monasch both said St. John’s was willing to make the monetary commitment if needed to keep its men’s and women’s basketball programs competing at a high level.

“We feel very comfortable we will have a substantial package,” Monasch said of a possible television deal.

The Big East is serving as a liaison between the football and basketball schools in the transition, according to Monasch. The future of the Big East men’s basketball tournament being held at Madison Square Garden is still one of the details being discussed. Monasch declined comment on the possibility of exit fees. The hope is to work with the football schools for an amicable separation.

“We are trying to be good colleagues,” Harrington said.

Big East Commissioner Michael Aresco acknowledged the seven schools’ contributions to the league’s history. He remains confident in the conference and its 13 schools moving forward. Tulane, Temple, Boise State, San Diego State, the University of Central Florida, Southern Methodist University, Memphis, Houston and East Carolina University are slated to join the Big East football conference over the next two years. Navy is to be added in 2015.

“We have a strong conference with respected national universities and are working together to forge the future,” Aresco said in a statement. “We have a variety of options and are looking forward with great partnership, collegiality and optimism.”

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