Big East, Catholic schools reach separation agreement

The Big East Conference has reached an agreement with the seven Catholic basketball schools, allowing for their departure this summer.

According to the Big East, the separation will become effective on July 1.

"I am pleased that this agreement has been reached," said Big East commissioner Mike Aresco in a statement Friday. "With the long-term well-being of our outstanding institutions and their student-athletes of paramount importance, each group worked through a number of complex issues in an orderly, comprehensive and amicable manner marked by mutual respect. We part ways as friends and colleagues and look forward to the success of both conferences."

Details on the split were not disclosed, but reports have indicated that the seven schools -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova -- will be able to keep the Big East name and play their basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden.

"We are grateful to Commissioner Michael Aresco for spearheading an agreement that truly represents the best path forward for each of our great institutions and the thousands of student-athletes who compete for our schools annually," said the presidents of the seven departing institutions in a statement Friday. "It is a great credit to Mike, our colleagues, and all involved that we were able to work through a host of highly complex and time-sensitive issues in such a short period of time. We are pleased that we reached this amicable and mutually-beneficial separation by approaching each issue with a spirit of cooperation and shared respect."

The seven departing schools are expected to add a few new members to their new conference, as various reports have stated that current Atlantic 10 members Butler and Xavier will join for the 2013-14 season, while Creighton could also depart the Missouri Valley Conference to form a 10-team league.

There has also been speculation that the new conference could also add Dayton and Saint Louis for the 2014-15 season.

The remaining schools from the old Big East -- Connecticut, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane and UCF -- will have to come up with a new name for the league.

It was in December when the seven non-FBS football schools decided that enough was enough and decided to part with the current Big East to pursue a new basketball-featured framework.

Over the course of the past 14 months, the Big East has had West Virginia depart for the Big 12 and three other football members -- Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville -- announce plans to leave for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Additionally, Rutgers accepted an invitation to join an expanded Big Ten and Notre Dame -- a Big East member in all sports except football -- also decided to join the ACC under those same stipulations.

Louisville and Rutgers are set to stay in the Big East for the 2013-14 academic year before departing to their respective new leagues, but could now seek to opt out this summer, although football schedules for the ACC and Big Ten have already been formulated for the fall.

The Big East formed in 1979, primarily as a men's basketball conference, with Syracuse, Georgetown, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall, Connecticut and Boston College as original members.

It has grown exponentially, adding and subtracting members along the way, prior to its current configuration of 16 teams. Boise State and San Diego State were slated to join the Big East next year, but decided to remain in the Mountain West.