The separation agreement is official. The so-called "Catholic 7" has reached an agreement to part ways with Big East football schools on July 1 to form their own "basketball-first" conference. According to industry sources, the basketball schools will retain the Big East brand name, and as first reported by Newsday on Feb. 28, their conference basketball tournament will be at Madison Square Garden.
The news came in the form of statements released jointly by current Big East commissioner Mike Aresco and by the departing seven schools: St. John's, Seton Hall, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence and Villanova.
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The statement from the departing schools thanked Aresco for "spearheading an agreement that truly represents the best path forward . . . 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."
Time was of the essence, sources said, because the new Big East has an agreement with Fox Sports Network that will pay a reported $3 million to $4 million annually per school for a conference that begins play in 2013-14. Nothing is official, but industry sources say Butler and Xavier of the Atlantic 10 and Creighton of the Missouri Valley are expected to join the new Big East to form a 10-team league. St. Louis and Dayton of the A-10 also are regarded as potential targets for a 12-team league.
Aresco thanked the departing schools and acknowledged in a separate statement that the football schools plan a name change.
"We have not chosen a new conference name at this time and there are no favorites," Aresco said.
According to reports, the conference's law firm recently purchased the domain name "America12.org" and variations.
Notre Dame, a member in all sports but football, now is expected to negotiate an early departure to the ACC for the 2013-14 season.