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Big East makes breakup official

– The Big East made its split official Friday, with seven basketball schools breaking away from the football-playing members in a deal that takes effect July 1.

Commissioner Mike Aresco told The Associated Press that the seven Catholic schools leaving to form a basketball-centric conference will get the Big East name, along with the opportunity to play their league tournament in Madison Square Garden.

The football members, most of which are newcomers to a conference that has been ravaged by realignment, get a cash haul of roughly $100 million. That group includes just one founding Big East member – Connecticut – and will have to find a name for what is essentially a new league.

“It’s been an arduous four months, but we got to the right place,” Aresco said in a phone interview. “I think both conferences have good futures.”

Aresco, who will remain commissioner of the football league, would not disclose the financial part of the settlement.

A person familiar with the negotiations told the AP this week that the football schools will receive about $100 million from a $110 million stash the conference had built up over the last 2 1/2 years through exit and entry fees as well as NCAA men’s basketball tournament funds.

Aresco said the football schools have not chosen a conference name and there are no favorites yet. “We can get on with reinventing ourselves and re-establishing our brand,” he said.

He also said they have not determined how the money from the separation agreement will be split among the members. The person familiar with the negotiations said the bulk of the money will go to holdover members Cincinnati, Connecticut and South Florida.

The split with the basketball members as well as a new TV deal with ESPN for the football schools still must be ratified by the school presidents. Aresco said that should come soon and without glitches.

Next up on the agenda for the football schools, Aresco said, is to find a 12th member and venues for future basketball tournaments.

The settlement will bring the Big East back to its origins. When it was formed in 1979, it banded together a group of mostly small, mostly private schools in and around Northeast cities.

The seven schools breaking away from the football schools include some of the Big East’s founding members and most recognizable teams: Georgetown, St. John’s, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, Marquette and DePaul.

They are expected to sign a television rights deal with Fox, add at least two more schools and have the new league up-and-running by July.

The football conference now known as the Big East will consist next season of Connecticut, South Florida, Cincinnati, Temple, Rutgers and Louisville, along with incoming members Memphis, Central Florida, SMU and Houston.

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 conference’s next addition.

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