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 schools venturing out on their own are: Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall, and Providence.
‘‘The institutions that have been committed to men’s basketball have made a decision that they are going to stay committed to men’s basketball,’’ Marquette coach Buzz Williams said after the Warriors beat Savannah State in Milwaukee.
Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Providence helped form the Big East, which started playing basketball in 1979. Villanova joined in 1980, and Marquette and DePaul in 2005. The Big East began playing football in 1991. The basketball 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.
‘‘St. John’s would love to keep the Big East name,’’ said the Rev. Donald J. Harrington, the president of St. John’s, who emphasized he was speaking only for his school. ‘‘I would like to hear what the football schools think and then try to make a compromise.’’
Big East bylaws require departing members give the conference 27 months notice, but the league has negotiated early departures with Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia over the past year. Those schools all had to pay exit fees. Big East rules do allow schools to leave as a group without being obligated to pay exit fees.
‘‘I think what the statement basically says is within the structure of the Big East Conference we have the opportunity as a group to exercise a right to, in an orderly fashion, separate from the conference,’’ said Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed.
The latest hit to the Big East leaves Connecticut, also a founding member, 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 the 2013-14 school year.
‘‘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 Big East is still lined up to have a 12-team football conference next season with six new members, including Boise State and San Diego State for football only. Rutgers and Louisville, which both announced intentions to leave the Big East last month, are scheduled to compete in the conference next year. Notre Dame, which is moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference, also is expected to continue competing in the Big East next season in all sports but football and hockey.
Also joining the Big East next season are Memphis, Central Florida, Houston, and SMU for all sports. As for the departing seven, there has already been speculation they will try to align with other Catholic schools that have strong basketball programs, such as Xavier, Dayton, Creighton, or even Gonzaga, which is located in Spokane, Wash.
New Mexico Bowl — Matt Scott threw two short touchdown passes in the final 42 seconds and college football’s postseason started with a wild one as Arizona rallied past Nevada, 49-48, in Albuquerque.
Arizona (8-5) recovered an onside kick in the final minute, setting up Scott’s 2-yard toss to Terrence Miller with 19 seconds left for the winning score. Scott threw for 382 yards and overcame two interceptions. The nation’s rushing leader, Ka’Deem Carey, gained 172 yards for the Wildcats.
Cody Fajardo threw for three touchdowns and ran for another score to lead the Wolf Pack (7-6). He had 256 yards passing and 140 yards rushing. Stefphon Jefferson, the nation’s second-leading rusher, ran for 180 yards for Nevada.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl — Kerwynn Williams ran for 235 yards and three touchdowns as No. 18 Utah State beat Toledo, 41-15, in Boise, Idaho.
The victory capped the best season in Utah State history. The Aggies finished 11-2, won the Western Athletic Conference title, and had their first bowl victory since 1993.
Chuckie Keeton scored on a 62-yard run to put Utah State up, 7-3, and Williams sparked a 28-point fourth quarter when he broke through the Toledo (9-4) defense and raced 63 yards for a TD to put the Aggies up, 20-9. Williams followed that with TD runs of 5 and 25 yards. Keeton ran for 92 yards and was 21-of-31 passing for 229 yards.
FCS semifinal — Quarterback Brian Bell ran for two touchdowns and threw for another and Sam Houston State raced to a 35-0 halftime lead but barely held on to beat Eastern Washington, 45-42, in Cheney, Wash., earning a trip to the Football Championship Subdivision championship game. The Bearkats (11-3) face top-seeded North Dakota State, which won last year’s matchup, 17-16, on Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas.
Vernon Adams tied a school record with six TD passes to pull the Eagles (11-3) within a field goal with 3:02 to play. Sam Houston State, however, was able to run out the clock behind Tim Flanders, who rushed for 219 yards.
Division 2 championship — Matt Pierce returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and freshman Cedric O’Neal ran for 140 yards and a score to lead Valdosta State to a 35-7 victory over Winston-Salem State in Florence, Ala.
The Blazers (12-2) of Georgia took a 21-0 halftime lead en route to their 10th straight win and first national title since 2007, coach David Dean’s debut season. The Rams (14-1) were trying to become the first historically black school to win the Division 2 title, but they couldn’t overcome six turnovers.
Vermont 5, St. Lawrence 2 — Kyle Reynolds had a goal and two assists, and Jacob Fallon added a goal and an assist to lead the Catamounts (4-8-3) over the Saints (7-8-2) in Canton, N.Y. Chris McCarthy and Nick Luukko also scored for Vermont. Greg Carey and Kyle Essery scored for St. Lawrence.
Union 3, Maine 2 — Christine Valente broke a scoreless tie 27 seconds into the third period to lead the Dutchwomen (5-9-3) over the Black Bears (2-14-1) in Orono, Maine. Nicole Bartlett and Kelly McGrath added goals for Union. Brittany Dougherty scored twice for Maine.
Division 1 championship — Bailey Webster had 14 kills, Haley Eckerman added 12, and third-seeded Texas (29-4) swept Oregon (30-5) in Louisville, Ky., for its first NCAA championship since 1988. The Longhorns won, 25-11, 26-24, 25-19.
Texas was making its fourth Final Four appearance in five years and playing in its first title game since 2009, when the Longhorns lost to Penn State in five sets.