Saturday, December 15, 2012

Catholics are Leaving Big East. Before Friday, I Would Have Called This Sad

What's essentially been known for several days now became official today: the Catholic schools -- I like "The Big Priest" -- are breaking off to form their own conference.

Big East commish's Mike Aresco's statement:

“The basketball institutions have notified us that they plan to withdraw from the BIG EAST Conference. The membership recognizes their contributions over the long distinguished history of the BIG EAST. The 13 members of the Conference are confident and united regarding our collective future. We have a strong Conference with respected national universities, and are working together to forge the future. We have a variety of options, and are looking forward with great partnership, collegiality and optimism.”

(I love it how schools are either called "the football schools" or "the basketball schools." Schools do play other sports, you know. In fact, that's a factor when you consider sending money-bleeding programs like field hockey or tennis from Storrs to SMU or Houston or wherever to play their games).

Here's the joint statement from the seven "basketball schools":


Earlier today we voted unanimously to pursue an orderly evolution to a foundation of basketball schools that honors the history and tradition on which the Big East was established.

Under the current context of conference realignment, we believe pursuing a new basketball framework that builds on this tradition of excellence and competition is the best way forward.

We are grateful to our Commissioner, Michael Aresco, for his exceptional leadership of the Big East Conference. We have been honored to be associated with the outstanding group of institutions that have made up the Big East. While we pursue this opportunity for our institutions, we believe the efforts of the past two years have established the foundation for an enduring national football conference.

We look forward to building this new foundation with an emphasis on elite competition and a commitment to the development of our students engaged in intercollegiate athletics. That is where we will now spend our energy as we move forward.


Here's Susan Herbst's tempered response, which I have no problem with:

"The tragedy that took place in Newtown on Friday should be the focus of the thoughts of the people in Connecticut and all Husky fans this weekend.

"The University of Connecticut believes that the BIG EAST Conference will continue to be a strong and exciting conference that is comprised of highly-regarded national universities.

"We ask our fans to steer all passion and concern to Newtown, and we will honor those lost when we gather together as a university community for events this upcoming week."

Meanwhile, the Catholic schools are giddy. Here's the reaction from Providence:


“Providence College has enjoyed a proud tradition as a founding member of the BIG EAST Conference,” Providence College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. said. “I want all our donors, alumni, fans, students and especially our student-athletes to know that we have worked diligently to get to this point. We believe that today’s vote moves us further toward a solution that will put Providence College and the other six basketball institutions in a position for long-term success. We are working toward a model that is very similar to what BIG EAST founder Dave Gavitt first envisioned more than 30 years ago when he left Providence College – a conference comprised of basketball schools that would be branded and which would compete at the highest of levels in the national spotlight.”

“We are also working to provide Head Men’s Basketball Coach Ed Cooley with the resources he needs to compete and excel at this level. We have committed to Coach Cooley that we will extend his contract and we are working on the details of that at present,” Fr. Shanley said.

“This is a monumental day for Providence College and its Athletics Department,” Athletics Director Bob Driscoll stated. “We are taking the necessary steps to secure the future of our basketball programs and of our entire athletics department. We felt it was vital for us to strengthen our bond with the other six basketball institutions and to provide a long-term solution in an ever-changing conference landscape. Having Coach Cooley lead our men’s basketball program for the long-term and ensuring that he has the necessary resources to compete on a national level are key components for a strong and vibrant future for our athletics department.”

“I am very excited about the direction of our men’s basketball program,” Cooley stated. “I want to thank Fr. Shanley and Bob Driscoll as they are working extremely hard to position us and to put the pieces in place that will allow us to continue to build Providence College men’s basketball so that we can compete and win at the highest echelons of the sport. Providence is my home and it is where I want to be. We still have work ahead of us in our quest, but today marks another big step towards our goal.” 

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