Woolard on Big East defections: USF "remains very well positioned for national success"

15

December

The basketball-centric Catholic schools made it official Saturday, announcing plans to separate from the Big East's football schools. Those seven schools - DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova - will leave on June 30, 2015, according to ESPN.com.

But while the once basketball tradition-rich Big East conference has taken a big blow, USF athletics director Doug Woolard appears confidence in those that remain. Woolard released a statement Saturday saying the conference has "13 strong members moving forward together" and "we will have an excellent league."

"The planned withdrawal of the seven Catholic institutions from the Big East Conference was certainly not unexpected, and we wish them the best moving forward," Woolard said. "The Big East model adopted in 1991 that encompassed both football and non-football playing members proved successful since its inception. This change, though, had been the subject of discussion for many years, and can now be viewed as part of the natural progression of conference realignment.

"The Big East has 13 strong members moving forward together.  We will have an excellent league in football, basketball and all other sports, and our programs will compete at the very highest level of intercollegiate athletics. USF remains very well positioned for national success.  As the eighth largest university in America, an incredibly rich talent base in the state of Florida and state-of-the-art athletics facilities that match or exceed those of any program in the country, there is no question USF will continue to emerge as a national force."

The Big East still is slated up to have a 12-team football conference next season with six new members joining, including Boise State and San Diego State for football only. Rutgers and Louisville, which both announced intentions to leave the Big East, are still expected to compete in the conference next year.

Here's the statement from commissioner Michael Aresco and the Big East presidents.

"The basketball institutions have notified us that they plan to withdraw from the BIG EAST Conference.  The membership recognizes their contributions over the long distinguished history of the BIG EAST.  The 13 members of the Conference are confident and united regarding our collective future.  We have a strong Conference with respected national universities, and are working together to forge the future.  We have a variety of options, and are looking forward with great partnership, collegiality and optimism."

-- JOE SMITH

joesmith@tampabay.com

[Last modified: Saturday, December 15, 2012 6:37pm]

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