New hoops league has a lot to figure out

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Villanova coach Jay Wright will be coaching in a new league by 2015. (Photo: Mark Jordan)

Villanova coach Jay Wright will be coaching in a new league by 2015. (Photo: Mark Jordan)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

The so-called “Catholic 7” schools made a move that is sure to send major shock waves throughout the college basketball landscape when they decided to withdraw from the Big East Conference yesterday.

DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova announced their decision to start their own high-quality athletics conference yesterday, an all-sports (except football) conference that’s built around the schools’ basketball strengths instead of the gridiron sport that’s been driving most of college athletics’ recent conference shufflings.

Now that the big decision’s made, it’s about figuring out the the “minor” issues, like when the split will actually happen–league bylaws say June 30, 2015, but recent dealings with Pitt and Syracuse’s early departures say otherwise.

“There are a lot of details and issues that need to be worked out over time,” Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro said at a press conference on Sunday afternoon. “I think it would be premature to talk about specifics related to those.

“I think this week will be a week where we try to get ourselves organized, and then put the plan moving forward to address these issues,” he added later. “It will take some time, it won’t happen overnight for sure.”

Oh, sure, there are some other things as well; a new name might be necessary depending on who gets the Big East moniker, and the conference is certain to add a number of members before it actually gets started. They’ll need a commissioner, a television deal, a conference championship site, and plenty of other things to get done before everything’s ready to go.

No matter what, it was a move that needed to be made. The money in the BCS conferences was flowing towards the football schools, and the Catholic 7 needed to separate themselves from Temple, South Florida, Cincinnati and other schools that relied heavily on their FCS football teams.

“The biggest thing for us is to be able to control our destiny and control our futures,” Nicastro said. “We’re in a very unique time in intercollegiate athletics, there’s been a tremendous amount of chaotic organization and consolidation in our business.”

At one point, Villanova was trying to make that move up to the highest level of collegiate football; that was when the Big East was expanding back in 2011, not contracting as it is in 2012.

“Right now, I’m pleased that we didn’t make the decision (to move up),” Villanova University President Rev. Peter M. Donahue said. “It’s been a changing environment for football, and I’m very pleased where Villanova is situated right now and I think all of us as a University are looking forward to moving ahead with this kind of conference and putting our emphasis where we know (it) should be.”

The biggest question surrounding the whole decision deals with which institutions are likely to join in with the seven; Xavier and Butler were reported by to be “definitely” going along while other schools like Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Richmond, Dayton and Saint Louis have been rumored to be potential additions under consideration.

“The criteria that we’ll set forth wiil be non-denominational, I can tell you that,” Nicastro said. “We’ll start with schools that are genuinely and have a demonstrated commitment to playing at the highest level. You’re gonna see–and this is not an exhaustive list–but schools that care a lot about the holistic development of their student-athletes, we think that’s important; schools that are very attractive to media entities, we don’t wanna leave that out; and when you start to populate that matrix you’ll probably see some Catholic schools and you’ll probably see some schools that aren’t Catholic in there.”

It’s certainly going to be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks and months as the conference realignment cards continue to shuffle.

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