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University Beat

7 Departing Schools to Keep "Big East" Name

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Big East Conference

After memberships in the Sun Belt Conference and Conference USA, the University of South Florida will reportedly soon say farewell to the Big East Conference -- but not by choice. ESPN.com reports the so-called "Catholic 7" schools splitting off from the league will keep the Big East name.

According to ESPN, the seven schools, which don't field Football Bowl Series (FBS) level teams, want to formally split off in July of this year. Sources say the seven -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, and Villanova -- will be joined by Butler, Xavier, and possibly Creighton in the 'new' Big East.

The Catholic 7's exit from the Big East is being expedited by Fox Sports Network. The network initially contacted the seven schools and laid the groundwork for them to leave the Big East with the promise of a lucrative media-rights deal, a source said. Fox Sports Network is expected to announce the addition of the Catholic 7/Big East basketball league Tuesday in New York as part of the network's news conference announcing the addition of Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 channels. Fox Sports Network's deal with the Catholic 7 is expected to be worth at least $3 million annually per school, sources said.

USF and the other schools not splitting off announced last week  that they reached a seven year broadcast deal with ESPN worth $130 million (with a smaller basketball-only deal with CBS, each school receives about $1.8 million a year in TV rights fees).

The Big East presidents and athletic directors met last week in Atlanta. There's no word yet on what the "Catholic 7" schools are paying to keep the Big East name, and there's also no word on which set of schools will keep the prestigious deal to play the men's conference basketball tournament in New York's Madison Square Garden.

As if all these moves weren't already confusing enough, if the 'new' Big East comes into existence this year, Notre Dame could try to also leave ahead of schedule. ND plans to join the ACC in 2014, but sources say the school would try to make that move a year ahead of schedule, or join the 'new' Big East for one season.

If all of the announced moves happen without any further changes, USF, Connecticut, and Cincinnati will remain the only Big East hold-overs in whatever the new conference is named. At the moment, they'd be joined by Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, Southern Methodist and Temple. Louisville and Rutgers would play in the new conference for one season before they leave in summer 2014 for the ACC and Big Ten, respectively. They'd be replaced by East Carolina and Temple, with Navy planning to come aboard as a football-only member in 2015.