IT WAS TIME. And it had been coming for a while now. The seven Big East schools that don't play FBS football had seen the conference unraveling around them, for reasons that had nothing to do with basketball or any other sport other than the one that is reshaping the landscape of big-time college athletics because of all the television revenue involved.
If you said lacrosse, try again.
On Saturday, those seven announced they were leaving as a group to form their own conference. On Sunday, Villanova held a press conference to talk about the decision it made with Seton Hall, Marquette, Georgetown, DePaul, St. John's and Providence.
This move had been rumored for more than a year. That's what happens when you look up one day and you're no longer affiliated with Syracuse, or Pitt, or West Virginia, or Louisville, or Rutgers. And at some point, maybe even soon, there might not be any more Connecticut or Cincinnati, if other rumors become reality. Nobody knows for sure. But after everything that's taken place, do you really need to wait around for any more Tulanes to come aboard?
Rather than do that, the seven opted to take control of their own destiny while they still had the opening, which at this juncture meant not having to pay an exit fee or have it put to a vote, no minor considerations.
"There was concern on our part where the conference was headed and what part basketball would play in that," said Villanova's president, Rev. Peter M. Donohue. "It seemed football was much more prevalent [on the priority list]. We began to talk about a lot of possibilities. We came to this after a lot of conversation about what we needed to do and where we needed to place ourselves."
Obviously many questions have to be addressed. Like, for instance, who gets to keep the Big East name. Or even who gets to keep playing its tournament at Madison Square Garden. Almost anything will be up for discussion and negotiation. Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro said the next phase will involve how to get organized and put a transition team in place as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The new league is not supposed to start until at least 2015-16. But there's always a chance it could be a year earlier. The model they are looking at is 10 teams. Sources have confirmed what conventional wisdom has said all along, that Butler (which just joined the Atlantic 10) and Xavier (a longtime key A-10 player) already have let it be known that they're interested. Dayton would appear to be another possibililty, while some have speculated Creighton and St. Louis as well.
Since the basketball schools get nothing financially from Big East football, sources very familiar with the situation contend that the TV money from this new entity will be at least equal or likely even greater. Guess we'll find out.
Of course, you also could make the point that some of the seven programs haven't been real successful lately. That'll have to play out, too.
"There's a lot of details and issues that need to be worked out over time," Nicastro said. "We'll be talking about specifics relative to those, moving forward.
"It's a very unique time. There's been a tremendous amount of chaotic reorganization and consolidation. The next step is to engage people to lead us through this process. We want to go there from a position of strength. We'll start to put the pieces together and see where that takes us. The basketball-centric schools needed to chart a new course.
"We wanted to be empowered to have a clear direction, be very intentional . . . The last 3 or 4 weeks, we've been in the bunker with a lot of this."
The world spins, life moves along, rivalries change. It's the way the game is played in these times. If you blink, you might miss the latest exodus. At the end of the day, you have to do what you think is best for you and those with the same needs.
"It kind of happened quick," said coach Jay Wright. "You want to keep it going for a long time, but you see where this is going. So you say, 'OK, now we've got to do this,' instead of sitting back and see what the football schools decide.
"It's sad. I grew up watching Pearl Washington, Ed Pinckney, Patrick Ewing, and later Kerry Kittles, Allen Iverson. That's the Big East we all knew. It really is sad. In the same sense, though, the ACC's not the same anymore. The Big Ten's not the same. The only thing that's definite is change."