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Marquette, six others vote to unanimously to leave Big East

Marquette, along with Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Villanova, DePaul and Providence announced today it would be leaving the Big East to join a Catholic-based league at an undetermined date.

The earliest the league could begin without paying an exit fee to the Big East would be June 1, 2015, according to sources. However, there remains the possibility that the seven schools would negotiate an early exit.

Marquette president Rev. Scott R. Pilarz issued a statement saying in part: “We will explore our options to develop a premier athletics conference centered on elite-level basketball.

“This move will allow us to enhance the elite status of our men’s basketball program, while developing new opportunities for student athletes in all 16 of our competitive athletic programs.”

Pilarz and Vice President and Director of Athletics Larry Williams said in a joint press conference following Marquette’s 71-51 win over Savannah State on Saturday that this was “an historic day for the university” and they are “very, very pleased at the relationships we’re forming together with the other six schools as we’re going forward.”

Pilarz also said in an email to students that the process began about 15 months ago but picked up in recent weeks after the departure of Big East conference members.

Williams also reiterated that details on how the process of forming the new conference was still being sorted out.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” Williams said. “There will be a mutual commitment to getting about that work as quickly as possible.”

There was no immediate indication of other schools that the league would be inviting to join.

Peoria Journal Star’s Dave Reynolds, beat reporter for Bradley University, tweeted earlier in the day that Creighton would be leaving the Missouri Valley Conference to join the league.

Other sources have also indicated that Xavier and Butler, among others, would be options the league would pursue as well.

St. John’s president Rev. Donald J. Harrington said he “would estimate 10 or 12 members are probably where we would want to be, but we want to make sure we have the strength. That’s the important thing.”

Williams said the administration “couldn’t be more excited about the future of Marquette.”

Williams also touched on the fact that the schools would want an amicable parting as they go their separate ways and he feels comfortable that the group is being competitive in basketball and other sports can control its destiny, particularly when discussions of a new TV deal come up.

Marquette basketball coach Buzz Williams said he supported the university’s decision to ensure the quality of the basketball program “1,000 percent going forward.”

“The institutions that have been committed to men’s basketball have made a decision that they’re going to stay committed to men’s basketball,” Williams said. “As a men’s basketball coach, I’m in support of that.

“I can tell you that the decision collectively was made because there is a commitment from Marquette and those other six institutions, that men’s basketball is really important and I think that that’s outstanding.”

Big East commissioner Mike Aresco also released this statement on the news of the seven schools departing: “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.”

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