VILLANOVA, Pa. —
The seven departing schools have won three men’s basketball national championships with 18 Final Four appearances. Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Providence helped form the Big East, which started playing basketball in 1979. Villanova joined in 1980, and Marquette and DePaul in 2005. The Big East began playing football in 1991.
“I just like the fact that our schools are being proactive and moving in a direction that I think will be just great,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “I’ve always said DePaul will be fine because we’ll be in a terrific basketball league and nothing’s transpired in the last week or so that’s changed my mind.”
For most of the schools, leaving is bittersweet, but it is a move necessitated by earlier defections like Syracuse (ACC), Pittsburgh (ACC) and West Virginia (Big 12), and the heavy emphasis on the cash-cow football programs.
“I think the tipping point in the mind of all seven of us was the most recent departure of Louisville and Rutgers,” said Villanova’s president, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue. “There was a concern on all of our parts about where the conference was heading and where basketball was playing a part in the conference.”
The breakup, however, is almost guaranteed to get messy. The Big East name, after all, will be up for grabs in negotiations.
“The association has served us well, for sure,” Villanova Athletic Director Vince Nicastro said. “It’s been part of the fabric of our programs. But we’re looking forward.”