Is it over? Big East's "Catholic Seven" nearing decision to leave Big East?

Ray Floriani

The next 48 hours should see a statement from the basketball-only schools about their decision to move on or not.

Overnight, word came out that the seven basketball-focused Catholic schools - St. John's, Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, DePaul, and Marquette - are nearing a decision on whether to stay or leave/ dissolve the Big East.

And it looks like the plan is to leave or dissolve, invoking Article XII of the Big East's bylaws. The dissolution question hinges on whether or not Temple has a vote on the conference's existence:

A source told ESPN on Wednesday that Temple, as a football-only member, has voting rights but can't vote on dissolution of the league. With Temple unable to vote, that gives the seven basketball schools enough votes to dissolve the league.

Sources said there are multiple legal entanglements that make the voting situation "complex."

Whatever the schools choose, it seems that many fans will get their way.

Last weekend's meeting to discuss the direction of the conference has (reportedly) solidified the basketball schools' resolve to strike out on their own, and one assumes the schools have done their due diligence on their position with respect to the Big East's remaining assets - the NCAA Tournament money to be paid for past performances, the Big East name, their ability to leave without paying exit fees, and the loss of exit fees from schools like Syracuse and Rutgers.

The choice made is aimed at stability, preserving the brand... and also pride. It has to be hard to feel that competitive balance is maintained with a shifting conference makeup. Still, the stability and ability to hold the collective programs' heads high comes with financial risk.

What will the conference look like? Lean, mean, and it will include a little more of a midwestern presence, per Kevin McNamara.

The seven Catholic, or basketball, schools will target three schools to join them in a 10-team league. Xavier, Dayton and Butler are the leading candidates. Each now resides in the Atlantic 10 but would be very interested in joining a league with Midwest regional rivals like Marquette and DePaul and an opportunity to come East and play Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova instead of George Washington, Fordham and La Salle.

(The rest of McNamara's piece is a lovely eulogy for the conference. Give it a read.)

If those moves come to pass, the Dayton Flyers/ Xavier Musketeers/ Butler Bulldogs should make more money from their media deal than the approximately $357,000 the Atlantic-10 affords them. Coupled with their healthy attendance and local popularity, it's a solid step that also kindles regional rivalries with Marquette and DePaul.

Meanwhile, St. John's, Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall, and Providence get to maintain their northeast rivalries while matching up against three solid new programs, possibly in a true 16-game round-robin.

Will Madison Square Garden still be interested? It's an intriguing conference that should find a solid home. If the interest is there after Syracuse and Louisville departed, the only loss is the UConn fanbase - while adding rabid fans from the midwest.

The remnants of the Big East Conference - Connecticut, Cincinnati, Temple, and South Florida - will have to craft new affiliations with the other football members, or see if the other football conferences want to throw a proverbial lifeline.

The future is about to start. How soon? It's hard to tell.

The fans of the basketball product will be excited, but will these games have enough potential viewers to attract a media deal similar to the one the hoops schools currently have? And if not, can those schools make the difference up by scheduling marquee games?

How will this change in revenue and affiliation affect the non-revenue sports?

All of those questions, and more, will be covered by the Rumble. (We promise.)

More on conference realignment and St. John's future

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