In making the move, the basketball schools formally acknowledged what has become increasingly apparent: Their interests are no longer best served by what has become a football-driven conference. Rather than allow their basketball profile to be further eroded and their voice in conference affairs become more irrelevant, they are better off forming a league of their own.
Georgetown, six other Big East basketball schools to form a league of their own
“There has been thoughtful consideration to our membership in the Big East Conference — what that has meant to us, Georgetown University — and they are never easy decisions,” Georgetown Athletic Director Lee Reed explained. “But we thought it was the right time to make this decision.”
It’s unclear how many members the new league will consist of, although it will expand beyond the current seven Catholic schools, with Butler and Xavier (based in Indianapolis and Cincinnati, respectively) considered front-runners for an invitation. Under league bylaws, which mandate a 27-month waiting period without paying an early exit penalty, the seven schools would be eligible to depart June 30, 2015. It’s also unclear whether it will pursue rights to the name “Big East” and the privilege of holding its men’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden.
But there’s no doubt the exodus of seven schools from the 15-team Big East, whose membership has been a revolving door since 2004, will further destabilize a college landscape marked by fault lines and call into question the very viability of the league they’ll leave behind. They bring to 17 the number of schools to have left the conference since 2004, when Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College left for the ACC.
The vote was taken on a noon conference call among the institutions’ seven presidents, who issued a joint statement through Georgetown’s administrative office saying they planned “to pursue an orderly evolution to a foundation of basketball schools that honors the history and tradition on which the Big East was established.”
Georgetown was a charter member of the Big East, founded in 1979 to leverage the major media markets of the Northeast and provide a nascent cable network, ESPN, with programming built on storied basketball rivalries.
But Georgetown men’s basketball Coach John Thompson III expressed no wistfulness over the move when speaking to reporters following the Hoyas’ 81-68 victory over Western Carolina at Verizon Center, which concluded just as the presidents issued their statement confirming the breakaway.
“This is a decision that is not an emotional decision,” Thompson said. “Getting to this point had nothing to do with Georgetown’s position as a charter member and not wanting to pull apart because of those ties and allegiances. I think at this point, based on the collegiate landscape, our leadership believes this is the right thing to do. And we believe this is the right thing to do.”