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Big East completes football-basketball breakup

By Ralph D. Russo

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 8 2013 5:13 p.m. MST

Rutgers and Louisville will likely be playing their last seasons in the conference before switching leagues, to the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference, respectively.

Tulane and East Carolina are scheduled to join the football league in 2014, and Navy comes aboard in 2015. Tulsa is being targeted as the next addition to the conference.

The Big East started playing football in 1991, when it added Miami, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Rutgers and Temple, to go along with Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Boston College. The relationship between the football and basketball wings was always difficult to navigate, but Big East football was good enough to be a given a reserved spot in the Bowl Championship Series in 1998 and that gave the basketball schools access to millions of dollars in revenue they otherwise would not have had.

In 2004, Miami and Virginia Tech were lured from the Big East to the ACC and Boston College (a founding member), followed the next year.

Those defections looked as if they could kill Big East football, but the conference recovered by adding Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida to rebuild football and DePaul and Marquette to bolster basketball.

That worked for a while. Big East football more than held its own and Big East basketball, both men's and women's, thrived.

But the conference fell apart over the last two seasons. Starting with Syracuse and Pittsburgh announcing in 2011 that they would join the ACC, 16 schools, including Notre Dame, have bailed on the Big East.

Notre Dame plans to join the ACC, but was expected to spend one more season in the Big East. The breakup could lead the Irish to expedite their move.

The Big East seemed to be on its way toward stabilizing last fall. It hired Aresco, the former CBS executive, and had a plan to build a coast-to-coast football conference with Boise State anchoring a western division.

Then the Big Ten wooed Rutgers away and the ACC came for Louisville and the plan fell apart.

The basketball schools decided to take control of their future, with help from Fox, which will provide them a lucrative TV deal to help fill the network's new all-sports cable channels.

The football schools will still have a basketball league, with Connecticut, Memphis and Cincinnati as the headliners.

Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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