Sources: Big East expected to split

The Big East's seven nonfootball-playing members have decided to separate from the league's football-playing members and would like to announce the decision at some point during the next week, barring an unexpected change of plans, multiple sources within the conference told on Thursday.

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The New York Post reported early Thursday the split would be formally announced later in the day. But a source quickly told no announcment was expected that soon and probably wouldn't come until at least next week. 

Officials from the seven schools planning to break off from the Big East will hold a conference call Saturday to discuss leaving the league.

This all comes after reported late Wednesday the Big East's nonfootball-playing members -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova -- were "leaning" toward separating. USA Today subsequently reported that Big East commissioner Mike Aresco is "exploring all avenues to hold the conference together" but added an "official at a school moving to the Big East in 2013 [said] the football schools are under the impression that a breakup is imminent."

The schools have yet to officially inform the Big East leadership of their intentions.

What happens next is unclear.

"Lawyers are going to have to sort it all out," a source told "I don't think anybody knows exactly how this is going to happen. They just know it's time to separate."

Whether a new league featuring DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova would be called the Big East or something different is, like almost everything else at this point, unresolved. Either way, a source told early Thursday that those seven schools will target at least three and perhaps five schools to join them. A different source told late Thursday that a 10-team league appears more likely than a 12-team league, and that Xavier and Butler would almost certainly be two of the schools invited, with Saint Louis, Dayton and Creighton vying for the 10th spot if the league does indeed stop at 10.

It's also worth noting the new league would have an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament because NCAA rules state that as long as at least seven universities have been in the same league for at least five years, that group can keep its automatic bid after a united move to a new conference. The left-behind football-playing members of the Big East would have to petition for an automatic bid in whatever league they happen to end up in, but a source told the NCAA would likely grant one.

So why is this happening now?

The Big East Seven
School Location
DePaul Chicago, Ill.
Georgetown Washington D.C.
Marquette Milwaukee, Wis.
Providence Providence, R.I.
St. John's Queens, N.Y.
Seton Hall South Orange, N.J.
Villanova Villanova, Pa.

A source told the league's nonfootball-playing members have simply determined they're going to have to move on someday and are finally ready "to just go ahead and do it." That belief seems to trump the idea that the nonfootball-playing members might be leaving TV revenue on the table by separating -- although sources told that athletic directors at those schools aren't sure they won't get a comparable or even better TV contract with a new basketball-centric league.

"Everybody likes the idea of being in a conference with Connecticut, Cincinnati, Memphis and Temple, but what happens when Connecticut and Cincinnati leave one day?" said a source from a nonfootball-playing school. "It's not like this is over. Eventually, Connecticut and Cincinnati would be gone, too. So I think the opinion from our side is to just move on. And I think we're just tired of it. That's the bottom line. We're just tired of this because none of this is helping us."

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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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