ESPN is reporting that the Big East's seven non-football schools are planning to leave the conference, with an announcement coming within the next two days. The presidents of Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall, and DePaul met in New York on Sunday and had a teleconference with the Big East commissioner this morning. It looks like the conference—which had agreements in place that would have seen it swell to 20 members by 2015—is toast.
Despite those grand expansion plans, the conference currently has only 10 voting members, and seven of those are the non-football schools. That gives them the two-thirds majority necessary to dissolve the league. According to ESPN, should they then choose to create a new conference, they would retain their automatic NCAA basketball tournament bid, because they've all been in the same conference for at least five years.
So rather than being a basketball-playing appendage to an endlessly sprawling body of C-list football schools, the ex-Big East could become what the Big East was originally designed to be: a compact, focused basketball league. Or possibly something less compact: There's some question of whether or not the Big East defectors would be content with a seven-team conference. ESPN reported on Tuesday that the Atlantic 10 might want to absorb the Big East's escapees. Then again, the newly separated conference might do the opposite and try to snatch up some of the better teams in the A-10, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported yesterday.
And the abandoned Big East football schools? What will they do? Nobody seems to care, which is kind of the whole point here.