Big East issues statement announcing official separation of ‘Catholic 7’

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The split that’s been rumored to be on the horizon is now official, as the Big East Conference released a statement on Friday announcing that the two groups reached an agreement.

As a result of the move the schools originally dubbed the “Catholic 7” will become the Big East on July 1, 2013.

No financial terms were discussed in the statement, but it’s likely that the three all-sports members (Cincinnati, Connecticut and South Florida) stand to receive a sizable amount of money due to exit fees paid by both former members of the Big East (schools such as West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse) and the Catholic schools.

“I am pleased that this agreement has been reached,” said Big East commissioner Mike Aresco in the statement.  “With the long-term well-being of our outstanding institutions and their student-athletes of paramount importance, each group worked through a number of complex issues in an orderly, comprehensive and amicable manner marked by mutual respect.

“We part ways as friends and colleagues and look forward to the success of both conferences.”

“We are grateful to Commissioner Michael Aresco for spearheading an agreement that truly represents the best path forward for each of our great institutions and the thousands of student-athletes who compete for our schools annually,” the presidents of the basketball schools stated in the same release.

“It is a great credit to Mike, our colleagues, and all involved that we were able to work through a host of highly complex and time-sensitive issues in such a short period of time.  We are pleased that we reached this amicable and mutually-beneficial separation by approaching each issue with a spirit of cooperation and shared respect.”

With today’s announcement two important moves need to be made by the “new” Big East: reaching an agreement for its media rights, and adding new members to complete the conference lineup. The schools which have been most prominent in reports have been Butler and Xavier, with Creighton, Dayton and Saint Louis also being mentioned as possibilities.

Both conferences will have automatic bids to the NCAA tournament, which shrinks the at-large pot from 37 bids to 36 (given the way in which some bubble teams have played down the stretch, this may be a good thing).

As for the football-playing schools who will develop a new conference they’re still looking into a name for the league, as Aresco denied reports that the “America 12 Conference” was the favorite in a separate statement.

“We have not chosen a new conference name at this time and there are no favorites.  We are going through a thoughtful evaluation of potential names for our conference, and will select a name in a timely manner through a comprehensive and deliberate process that involves our presidents and athletic directors as well as constituents from inside and outside the conference.  We are excited about the prospect of re-branding and look forward to working with our institutions and our fans as we engage in this process.”

Now that the important business has been settled, both entities get to move forward in hopes of making their respective leagues as strong as possible. The splitting of the Big East is unfortunate, but it’s also business.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.