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Will the Big East Become Extinct?

Charles E. Sutton | 12/19/2012, midnight

The seven Big East Conference Schools that don't play FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) football talked with the conference commissioner Thursday regarding the possibility of departing a league that has been dramatically reshaped. The leaders of those seven schools conferred with Commissioner Mike Aresco by phone. Such a departure would be complex and could spell the end of the Big East.

Currently, the Big East football membership includes only four schools (Temple, Connecticut, South Florida, and Cincinnati) that are committed to the league beyond 2013. However, there are 11 schools that plan to join the Big East within the next three years, including Boise State and San Diego State for football only in 2013.

Since those schools won't be joining until next summer, the non-football schools in the Big East could leave without financial penalty. Or they could try to vote to dissolve the conference now.

The schools that don't play FBS level football are Georgetown, DePaul, Marquette, St. John's, Providence, Villanova and Seton Hall. The USA Today reported Thursday night that the seven schools have elected to exit the league.

The ownership rights of the Big East name could even be up for debate, and if the basketball side of the Big East is somehow diminished it could lessen the value of the conference to television networks. If the television revenue doesn't meet the Big East's projections, it may cause some of its future members, particularly Boise State and San Diego State, to rethink the idea of joining.

Conference realignment has chipped away at the Big East, costing it several of its most prominent and oldest members in the last 16 months. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference next year. West Virginia has gone to the Big 12. Louisville is going to the ACC and Rutgers, maybe as soon as 2014, will be moving to the Big Ten.

The Big East was formed in 1979, when John Thompson Jr. was in his eighth season as Georgetown's head coach and John Thompson III was 13 years old. Thirty-three years later, the younger Thompson is the Hoyas' head coach, and his main concern is the future of his program and university, not maintaining a landscape whose era appears to have run its course.

The Big East's long term goal is to have a large basketball league including many of its traditional members, while forming a 12-to-14 team football conference spanning the nation.