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University Beat

Big East Future in Doubt

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Big East Conference

While USF Athletic officials put up a brave front, questions remain about the school's athletic conference future as seven fellow Big East teams announced plans to defect this past weekend.

The seven schools, which do not field Football Bowl Series (FBS) level teams like USF does, unanimously voted to leave the conference on June 30, 2015.

ESPN.com reports the timing and method of the schools' departure is a money-saving move.

Those bylaws require departing members to give the conference 27 months' notice, but the league has negotiated early departures with several schools during the past year. Big East rules do allow schools to leave as a group without being obligated to pay exit fees.

It's not known if the seven schools (Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall and Providence) intend to try to keep the Big East name, pursue other schools to join them, or attempt to keep the postseason tournament at Madison Square Garden.

"Earlier today we voted unanimously to pursue an orderly evolution to a foundation of basketball schools that honors the history and tradition on which the Big East was established," the seven presidents said in a joint statement. "Under the current context of conference realignment, we believe pursuing a new basketball framework that builds on this tradition of excellence and competition is the best way forward."

The move leaves USF, Connecticut and Cincinnati, three current members with FBS programs, wondering about what comes next. The Big East Conference is set to have a 12-team football conference next season with six new members joining, including Boise State and San Diego State for football only.

USF Athletic Director Doug Woolard released a statement expressing confidence in the future of both USF and the Conference.

The planned withdrawal of the seven Catholic institutions from the Big East conference was certainly not unexpected, and we wish them the best moving forward. The Big East model adopted in 1991 that encompassed both football and non-football playing members proved successful since its inception. This change, though, had been the subject of discussion for many years, and can now be viewed as part of the natural progression of conference realignment. The Big East has 13 strong members moving forward together. We will have an excellent league in football, basketball and all other sports, and our programs will compete at the very highest level of intercollegiate athletics. USF remains very well positioned for national success. As the eighth largest university in America, an incredibly rich talent base in the state of Florida and state-of-the-art athletics facilities that match or exceed those of any program in the country, there is no question USF will continue to emerge as a national force.

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