In his 20s, Thompson cheered the Big East’s dominance of basketball, with his father leading Georgetown to the 1984 NCAA championship and returning a year later as one of three Big East schools to reach the Final Four.
Thursday, the younger Thompson confirmed that Georgetown was in the process of studying whether it made sound business sense to leave and insisted that neither the university’s leadership, nor the seven Catholic schools that don’t compete in big-time football, would act rashly.
“I don’t think I’m out of line in speaking for President [Jack] DeGioia or [Athletic Director] Mr. [Lee] Reed: It’s not going to be an emotional decision,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be a decision based on research and projections of what’s best for this institution as much as we can control.”
Within hours, veteran Big East journalist Mark Blaudschun reported in USA Today that the seven presidents had informed Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco of their intent to leave during a conference call Thursday morning, intending to keep their plan quiet until the myriad legal and financial ramifications could be sorted out.
Georgetown has traditionally advocated for the Big East to stay together in times when its football-playing members have feuded with its traditional basketball powers. To break off now would make a dramatic departure.
But unless Aresco can convince them otherwise, that means Georgetown, DePaul, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova — more or less, the founding members that gave the Big East its identity and cache for most of its 33 years — will part ways with a conference that has been eroding under their feet anyway.
Neither DeGioia nor Reed was available to comment.
Just last month Louisville became the seventh Big East member in the past year to announce it was leaving, following football-playing members West Virginia, Texas Christian (which reneged before suiting up), Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Rutgers out the door for conferences that promise heftier guarantees.
It’s unclear when or under what terms the basketball schools will depart — whether, for example, they will vote to leave the Big East and form their own conference; or whether they will vote to dissolve the conference outright.
There are pros and cons to both scenarios in terms of branding (which group of schools would lay claim to the moniker “Big East,” for example), prestige (which group could hold its conference tournament at New York’s Madison Square Garden, as the Big East traditionally does) and finances (if the basketball schools leave en masse, they wouldn’t have to pay an “exit fee,” under a clause written into Big East contracts following the exodus of Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech).