Seven of the East's independent college basketball powers, including Georgetown, yesterday officially formed a new league that will begin play next season.
The other schools are St. John's, Syracuse and Connecticut - like the Hoyas NCAA tournament participants last season - plus Providence, Seton Hall and Boston College. The as-yet unnamed league is planning to add an eighth team, possibly within a year.
"There's no reason this league can't be as competitive as any," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. "At this stage of our development, it is necessary to join a league, as long as the goals and objectives are consistent with our program and I think they are."
The seven schools have earned 24 bids to the NCAA tournament in the past decade. The new conference will remain within the framework of the ECAC initially, will apply to the NCAA for status as an allied conference with an automatic basketball bid in two years and can earn at-large berths until then.
In order to qualify for an automatic bid, the new league must compete in at least six season-ending championship tournaments. It is likely to compete in seven: cross country, indoor track, outdoor track, baseball, golf and tennis, as well as basketball.
The league plans to play a single round-robin schedule with a season-ending tournament the first season and hopes to be playing a double round-robin schedule by the 1980-81 season, also ending with a tournament.
The league's seven athletic directors are expected to vote to rotate the tournament. It is likely the first one will be played at the Providence Civi-Center.
Georgetown already has St. John's, Boston College and Seton Hall on its schedule next season. The Hoyas will add games against Providence, Connecticut and Syracuse, probably two at home, along with St. John's, to give them three home games and three road games within the league.
Georgetown Athletic Director Frank Rienzo said some league games next season may be played in Capital Centre and eventually "we hope the stimulus of the league will militate that we take our games to Iarger arenas."
When the league goes double round robin, rienzo said, Georgetown probably will be forced to drop some of its traditional Eastern rivals, in order to "keep our national level program." Rienzo said he wants to continue playing Washington-area schools such as American University, Maryland and George Washington.
The new league will be included within the ECAC's new two-year television contract. But it is "inevitable," according to one source, these seven schools eventually will pull out of the ECAC entirely and put together their own television package.
The ECAC was meeting in executive committee session yesterday and today. NCAA official Tom Jernstedt said the NCAA basketball committee will decide at its July 7-10 meeting in Monterey, Calif., whether the ECAC will keep its three automatic bids to the NCAA tournament.