In a move that could signal the beginning of the end for the conference, the seven Catholic non-FBS members of the Big East have chosen to leave the conference.
USA Today reports that while the decision to leave has been made, the biggest issue facing the septet is how to make the move as quickly and painlessly as possible.
The group - which is comprised of DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova - met Sunday in New York with league commissioner Mike Aresco to express concern over the direction of the conference. The worries of the seven schools are centered around the programs which have recently left the Big East and the programs the conference has elected to replace them with.
The league lost West Virginia to the Big 12 this season, and will soon lose Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Louisville to the ACC. Rutgers will be leaving for the Big Ten in 2014. The Big East is filling the void left by those programs with new full-time members Memphis, Temple, Tulane, Central Florida, SMU and Houston.
The basketball schools were also reportedly upset about a new television deal that figures to be far less lucrative than the one the league currently has in place.
When it comes to leaving, the Catholic schools have two options. The first involves withdrawing from the conference as a group. In this scenario, the individual schools would not be forced to pay any exit fees, but would also not be able to collect any of the exit fee money being paid by the schools that have already left or that are in the process of leaving the league. They would also forfeit the ability to utilize the "Big East" name.
The second, more extreme option, is that the schools could vote to dissolve the league. If that were to occur, the outstanding bills of the league would be paid and the assets would then be divided among the 10 members (South Florida, Connecticut and Cincinnati are the other three). Every other agreement the conference had in place would disappear.
An official announcement from the schools is unlikely to occur until they agree on the best way to proceed.