The so-called "Catholic 7" finally have a name: the Big East. The seven schools (DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St John's, Seton Hall, Villanova) departing from the Big East will reportedly be forming their own league for the 2013-14 basketball season, and will be keeping the Big East name according to a report from ESPN.
The report from ESPN also indiciates that Butler and Xavier will join the conference for the upcoming season, leaving the Atlantic-10 at a cost of $2 million per school. ESPN is also reporting that the conference is looking into adding Creighton, Dayton, and St Louis for the 2014-15 basketball season. Fox is apparently going to be announcing the addition of the Catholic 7 to their programming lineup for the 2013-14 season, giving Fox a better foothold in the college basketball landscape than NBC has had in years.
Two big questions remain for what's left of the "old" Big East. First, what happens with Notre Dame? The Fighting Irish have two options on the table: 1) Join the Catholic 7 in the new Big East for just the 2013-14 season before jumping ship to the ACC or 2) Attempt to gain entrance to the ACC a year early. Notre Dame reportedly planned on staying in the Big East for the 2013-14 season *if* the Catholic 7 also remained, but their exit has clouded matters.
The second question remaining for the former Big East: how will they rebrand for the 2013 season? Big East basketball can still be an attractive brand and it'll be a huge victory for not just the Catholic 7, but for Fox Sports in marketing what amounts to a new league. The remaining hodgepodge of schools on the football and basketball side will keep their automatic BCS bid for the 2013 football season, but they won't be able to bill themselves as the "Big East." For all intents and purposes, Big East football as we know it is dead. Some of the teams still remain, but the conference we'll see in 2013 involving Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, Cincinnati, South Florida, Temple, and all of the new schools will be something completely different.
And thus, the most dramatic piece of the realignment puzzle has been played. The Big East got picked apart for years, tried to feast on the scraps of other conferences, and lost half of their basketball schools. What's left in the rubble of the old Big East is a giant mess of schools that more resembles Conference USA, and a basketball-centralized conference that is what the Big East was when it was first formed in 1979. The Big East was created by basketball and ended up getting broken apart when the conference tried to become a major player in the football world. The conference is in worse shape in basketball than when the whole realignment dance started in 2005, and they're in worse shape in football too. For whatever its worth, there's a certain irony in the Big East name moving on as a basketball only conference once again.