Hoops schools leaving Big East this summer, taking name

28

February

TAMPA -- USF's stay in the Big East, which started with such promise in 2005, now looks to be ending even sooner than expected.

The conference's basketball-only members are reportedly negotiating an accelerated exit, leaving this summer and taking the Big East name with them, leaving USF in a new, as yet unnamed conference this fall.

Multiple reports, first by ESPN, had the presidents and athletic directors from the league's football schools meeting Friday in Atlanta to discuss the proposed split, with negotations still continuing on how much the basketball schools would pay for the Big East name and how the league's NCAA "units" (for basketball tournament wins) and exit fees would be dispersed.

The fracture leaves USF -- and other existing members Cincinnati and Connecticut -- in a football and basketball league with Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, SMU, and Temple and this fall. Louisville and Rutgers, which will leave for the ACC and Big Ten respectively in summer 2014, would play in the new league for one season. East Carolina and Tulane are scheduled to join the league in 2014, and Navy is expected to join as a football-only member in 2015.

The departing basketball schools -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, and Villanova -- are expected to add three new teams; ESPN reported Xavier and Butler would join the league, with Creighton as the most likely 10th team. That league would keep its conference basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York, with the new unnamed league left to find a new home for its tournament.

This final split should consummate what has been an unraveling of the Big East's lineup, with 16 teams leaving or announcing they're leaving the league in the last two years. TCU, Boise State and San Diego State agreed to join the league but never arrived; West Virginia left for the Big 12 last year, and Pittsburgh and Syracuse will join the ACC this summer. Louisville, Rutgers and Notre Dame are also on their way out.

With the basketball-only schools leaving, USF's basketball programs should be in line for better success, but in a lesser league. The Bulls' men's team, which reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years last season, has struggled this year with a 1-14 record in league play. USF's women are in contention for an NCAA berth, with an 8-6 conference record entering Saturday's game against Connecticut.

The basketball departures should also have a negative impact on Sun Dome crowds -- home games involving the departing Big East programs have averaged 6,381 fans, which is 37 percent higher than home games involving other opponents (4,639).

USF joined the Big East in 2005 after two years in Conference USA and only eight seasons of football. The Bulls have never finished with better than a 4-3 record in football conference play, and have gone 1-6 each of the last two seasons, leading to Skip Holtz's firing in December and the hiring of new coach Willie Taggart.

[Last modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 10:04pm]

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