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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Split of Big East Conference is now official

After months of speculation, the seven Catholic non-FBS schools have negotiated a divorce from their fellow Big East members.

"I am pleased that this agreement has been reached,” Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a 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.”

DePaul, Georgetown Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova will be able to keep the "Big East" name.

There has been speculation that the conference UConn plays in will go by the name of the America 12 however that has yet to be officially announced.

“We have not chosen a new conference name at this time and there are no favorites," Aresco said in another statement. "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.”

Other than stating that the date of separation is July 1. More details will be officially announced in the coming weeks and months.

UConn is the only original Big East member which will be in a yet to be unnamed league. The Huskies will be joined by current Big East teams Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida. Temple, which joined in football for the 2012 season, will be a member in all sports beginning in the 2013-14 season. Central Florida, Houston, Memphis and Southern Methodist are joining the league in all sports beginning next season. With a 10-team league the new league can play an 18-game schedule with each team playing each other twice.

The absence of the Catholic 7 will hurt the overall strength of the conference although the impact won't be felt as much in the women's basketball world than in men's basketball.  Of the 10 Big East women's basketball teams with losing records in Big East regular-season competition, five of part of the Catholic 7 and since 1991 the only one to win a Big East tournament titles is Villanova in 2003.

All seven of the schools breaking off have played in the NCAA led by DePaul’s 17 appearances although it should be noted that just seven of those have come as a member of the Big East.

The five teams joining UConn’s conference have combined for 33 NCAA tournament appearances 

The bigger blow will be Notre Dame's departure for the Atlantic Coast Conference, something that could happen as early as the 2013-14 season. Louisville and Rutgers will leave for the ACC and Big Ten in 2014.

Following yesterday's practice UConn coach Geno Auriemma weighed in with his thoughts on the splitting of the conference.

"It's been my feeling that we have been fractured since 2005 and to me it has always been a miracle they have been able to keep it together this long given the disparity between all the schools involved, the different agendas of all the schools involved, the different missions of all the schools involved," Auriemma said. "We may have been the most diverse conference in the history of conferences. It was only a matter of time and I am glad the time in here now though. If you announce that you are leaving and then you stay for the next 'x' number of years that just causes a lot of bad stuff. Once somebody announces they are leaving, the sooner the better so I am happy the Catholic 7 schools are leaving because it gets them going in the direction they want to go in sooner and it gets us going in a direction we need to go in sooner and all that is good. We all knew it was going to happen. Once the storm clouds came in that football was running the NCAA we knew. How are eight football schools going to survive with eight basketball schools, that is not a marriage made in heaven.

"I can honestly say because there are not a lot of TV games that I don't know how good SMU is, I don't know how good Houston is, I don't know how good Memphis is, I have no idea because I don't see them play on a regular basis but I do know that there are some schools in our league that have struggled mightily to be successful in this conference. Are the schools that we added, are they going to be any worse? I think they have the potential to be better. What does it do for men's basketball? I have no idea. What does it do for football? I have no idea. But in terms of what this means for women's basketball, losing Notre Dame is going to really hurt, Syracuse and Rutgers is going to hurt but I don't know that three or four years from now we are going to look back and go 'boy, those seven schools that left just killed our women's basketball program.'"



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