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Conference dominoes continue to fall

St. John's Amir Garrett tries to get past

St. John's Amir Garrett tries to get past Fordham's Ryan Canty. (Dec. 8, 2012) (Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

The dominoes continue to fall in college sports. And they will likely resume falling for the next several years before some final resolution is reached.

The Big East, which is clearly a sinking ship, took another stiff body blow when it was confirmed that its seven non-FBS football schools plan on breaking away from the league to form their own conference. St. John’s, Seton Hall, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence and Villanova plan on starting their own league.

Despite the tradition-rich history of the seven, which includes 10 Final Four appearances and two national titles since 1982, forming a new league will be a lot tougher than most think.

Once the legal and logistical obstacles are cleared, the new league needs an immediate expansion, which means obtaining the services of at least two, maybe three new members. Dayton, St. Louis and Xavier are the three most likely targets.

It’s been suggested that getting Dayton, St. Louis and Xavier to join won’t be difficult. Not so fast. Adding VCU and Butler has transformed the Atlantic-10 into one of the country’s premier basketball conferences.

Securing a five-year to deal to play its conference tournament at the Barclays Center also speaks to the strength of the league. There is also the 10-year agreement the A-10 reached with NBC Sports, CBS Sports and ESPN in October.

All of the aforementioned moves made by the A-10 will make it that much tougher for the seven to reach the goal off becoming a big time basketball league. The seven could gain some leverage back if it can keep the Big East brand name. Keeping that name will make it easier to land a TV deal.

There is also the matter of where to play its conference tournament. Which horse will Madison Square Garden back? Will the “Mecca of Basketball” go with the seven or will it decide to stay with what’s left of the Big East?

Logic dictates MSG will stay with what’s familiar, which means the seven will get the benefit of the doubt. That could be the leverage the seven needs to lure Xavier, Dayton and or St. Louis.

As for the A-10, losing three solid programs would hurt, but the league is strong enough to withstand it. After all, if the A-10 loses three schools, it will do what other leagues do and go after colleges in another conference. That means schools like Iona, George Mason and perhaps Drexel could become targets of the A-10.

This is all assuming the A-10 doesn’t try to add a few of the seven. Reports surfaced a few days ago that the A-10 discussed expanding. Insiders say its unlikely the A-10 will succeed in getting any of the seven to abandon their plan of being a part of a new league. 

The big losers in all of this: Connecticut and Cincinatti. Both schools thought they were on the verge of joining the ACC. As of right now, both could be without a home soon depending on how quickly things move.

Temple will also be in limbo. The Owls left the emerging A-10 with the hope of enhancing its football program. Big East football could be dead in two years, if not sooner. Tulane and South Florida will also be on the outside looking in once the league splits.

We wouldn't worry about Boise State, San Diego State, SMU or Houston. Boise State and San Diego State have already been in discussions with the Mountain West, while SMU and Houston will likely be knocking on the Big 12's door for a place to call home.

In other conference news, Quinnipiac and Momnouth are leaving the NEC for the MAAC effective at the end of the academic year. There will be more to come.