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Seven non-football members of Big East formally vote to leave conference

News conference Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

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The seven Big East schools that don't play FBS football are leaving behind the conference many of them founded to build a league focused on basketball.

The presidents of the seven schools made the announcement Saturday.

"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," the statement said. "Under the 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."

The seven basketball schools leaving are: Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall and Providence. Georgetown, St. John's, Seton Hall and Providence helped form the Big East, which started playing basketball in 1979. Villanova joined in 1980. The Big East didn't begin playing football until 1991.

The statement from the seven Catholic schools gave no details about their plans, such as when they want to depart and whether they will attempt to keep the name Big East.

Some rumors have Xavier moving into a new "Catholic conference" with the seven departing Big East schools. Atlantic 10 conference mates Dayton and Butler have also been linked to the rumored new conference.

Officials from Xavier were not available for comment Saturday.

Big East bylaws require departing members give the conference 27 months' notice, but league has negotiated early departures with several schools over the past year. Big East rules do allow schools to leave as a group without being obligated to pay exit fees.

There are also millions of dollars in NCAA basketball tournament money and exit fees collected from recently departed members that will need to be divvied up.

"The basketball institutions have notified us that they plan to withdraw from the Big East," Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. "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."

The latest hit to the Big East leaves Connecticut, also a founding member of the league, Cincinnati, Temple and South Florida - the four current members with FBS football programs - as the only schools currently in the Big East that are scheduled to be there beyond next season.

The Big East is still lined up to have a 12-team football conference next season with six new members joining, including Boise State and San Diego State for football only. Rutgers and Louisville, which both announced intentions to leave the Big East, are still expected to compete in the conference next year.

Notre Dame, which is moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference, is also expected to continue competing in the Big East next season in all sports but football and hockey.

Joining the Big East next season are Memphis, Central Florida, Houston and SMU for all sports and Boise State and San Diego State for football only.

Copyright Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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