The first domino is about to fall, it seems.
As we have seen with other conference shifts, these things tend to move very quickly and it now appears that seven Big East schools are planning to withdraw from the conference, per CBS Sports' Gary Parrish. Per Parrish and other reports, the seven schools leaving the conference are all basketball schools: Marquette, DePaul, St. John's, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, and Villanova. Each of these schools obviously possesses a rich and deep basketball history and, while some have lacked recent success, each are big names in the basketball world.
In conference realignment madness, the Big East has largely been the prey and has seen their biggest programs depart for greener pastures. West Virginia and TCU have already waved goodbye to the league and Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Rutgers have all made their intentions known that they will be leaving the conference. In response to those major departures, the conference has added Memphis, Temple, Tulane, Central Florida, SMU, and Houston. East Carolina, Boise State, and San Diego State are expected to join as football only members, as well. Needless to say, the remaining Big East schools weren't too impressed with the additions, particularly as it relates to basketball.
The problem for the Catholic seven would be that if they were to venture off without taking the assets and brand name, they would forfeit all the NCAA tournament revenue from the conference and would be left without any start-up to form a new conference. Then, of course, the seven schools would have to attempt to lure Atlantic-10 members Xavier, Dayton, Saint Louis, Butler and possibly Creighton, the latter out of the Missouri Valley, to form a city league that would stretch from St. Louis to Chicago to Milwaukee to Indianapolis to Cincinnati to Dayton to Providence to New York-New Jersey to Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.
We have heard from multiple places that Gonzaga would be receptive to discussing a basketball-only conference move. Earlier today, Adam Zagoria took to Twitter with this:
Hearing Xavier, Butler, VCU, Dayton, St. Louis, Gonzaga and St. Mary's all among targets to join the former Big East Catholic schools— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) December 13, 2012
Luring the major A-10 teams would be the biggest step for the 'Catholic 7' at this point. My gut tells me that Gonzaga and Saint Mary's would both jump at the opportunity to cash in on their biggest revenue sport and join what would become a top basketball conference.
While there is a lot (A LOT) of pieces that need to fall into place to make this happen, the prospects are exciting. Stay tuned in this stream for all updates...