Big East in big trouble

By Ralph D. Russo
AP College Football Writer

NEW YORK – The seven Big East schools that don’t play FBS football are considering making a break from the drastically reshaped conference – and how best to go about doing it.

In any form, such a breakup would be complicated and conceivably could kill the Big East.

Commissioner Mike Aresco conferred by phone with the leaders of those seven schools early Thursday, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

The person said the schools hadn’t notified the conference of their decision as of Thursday night.

The current Big East football membership includes only four schools – Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida and Temple – that are committed to the league beyond 2013. But there are 11 schools with plans to join the Big East in the next three years, including Boise State and San Diego State for football only in 2013.

Because those schools won’t be members until next summer, the nonfootball schools in the Big East could try to vote to dissolve the conference now. Or they simply could leave the league.

The schools that do not play FBS level football are DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova. Officials at those schools have concerns about the direction of the conference and feel as if they have little power to influence it.

If the schools were to break off on their own, they could do so without financial penalty. The Big East has provisions in its bylaws that allow a group of schools to leave without exit fees.

But what they would do remains unclear, as are the legal ramifications of their actions. Who owns the rights to the Big East name could be up in the air, too. And, of course, there are millions of dollars that would have to be divvied up.

AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston contributed to this report.

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