‘Catholic 7′ leave Big East; Xavier, Butler expected to join

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Ryan Arcidiacono and the rest of the Villanova Wildcats will be playing in a new league. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Ryan Arcidiacono and the rest of the Villanova Wildcats will be playing in a new league. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

The so-called ‘Catholic 7′ basketball schools have officially left the Big East, they announced on Saturday–and it appears that they’re going to be taking at least a couple of Atlantic 10 teams with them.

DePaul, Providence, Georgetown, Villanova, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Marquette have been growing unhappier and unhappier with the league as it added full members like Houston and Central Florida over the last few years, but the breaking point appeared to come a few weeks ago when the league lost Louisville and Rutgers, only to replace them with Tulane (all sports) and East Carolina (football-only).

Now, the seven “basketball-only” schools (those that play football so do in the former Division I-AA) have announced they’ll be leaving to form their own conference, and source close to the decision has told CoBL that A-10 schools Butler and Xavier are “definitely” going to join them.

It was expected that there would be some additional schools brought on board to what should be an automatically-qualifying NCAA tournament conference. With quite a few private Catholic institutions, there’s a good chance the A-10 could be further poached even after Butler and Xavier; La Salle, St. Joseph’s, Dayton and Saint Louis are all similar to the other nine schools but that’s all just speculation at this point.

“It’s an interesting time. I still think a lot of things have to play out,” Villanova coach Jay Wright told CoBL at practice on Saturday. “I don’t think anyone can tell what the impact is going to be, but I think everyone is excited about the possibilities for what can happen going forward. It’s definitely a new era in college athletics.

Either way, this is certainly going to have a big impact on the Philadelphia basketball scene. Temple and Villanova were slated to become conference foes next year, but now it seems unlikely that will happen at any point in the foreseeable future. The Big East is likely to become a competitive mid-major basketball league and FBS football league while the new league is going to be a mid-high basketball-only conference likely consisting solely of small, Catholic schools with the same goals in mind.

“There are a lot of preferences,” Wright said. “What the realistic opportunities are is different. One thing I know about Villanova is our Board of Trustees, our president, our athletic director have been on this from day one. They’re very committed to big-time basketball.”

The decision leaves the Big East with only Temple, Cincinnati, Connecticut and South Florida as current conference members who aren’t slated to leave; they’ll be joined next year by Houston, Southern Methodist, Central Florida, and Memphis as full members while San Diego State and Boise State join as football-only members. Tulane and East Carolina join the following year, with Navy slated to join as a football-only member in 2015.

Besides Lousiville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big 10), the Big East has already lost long-time member West Virginia (Big 12) while Pittsburgh and Syracuse are headed to the ACC next year; Notre Dame’s will head to the ACC in everything but football in 2014.

CoBL will have more on this story as it emerges.

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