Big East Catholic schools thinking of leaving

Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

As SMU's new conference continues to lose members, its seven basketball-only schools, including Georgetown, Villanova and St. John's, are starting to eye the exits too.

The news just keeps getting worse for SMU, which had thought an invitation to the Big East was their ticket back to respectability in basketball and football.

In the last year, as many of the conference's flagship football schools have departed, the core of its basketball strength -- the seven Catholic schools in the Northeast who don't play football -- has stayed firm. But with the latest additions (Tulane, East Carolina) appearing to dilute the brand even further, they are reportedly getting increasingly nervous about what the Big East is becoming.

As long as Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, DePaul, Seton Hall, Marquette and Providence were still in the conference, SMU fans could at least hold on to the hope that their school could become a basketball power, with Larry Brown leading the Mustangs in weekly national TV games that would expand their brand.

However, according to the latest reports, the Catholic schools are eyeing similar basketball-only schools in the Atlantic 10 (Butler, Xavier) and across the country (Gonzaga) in hopes of creating a basketball super conference.

That could leave SMU out in the dust yet again, especially if Boise State and San Diego State read the writing on the wall and stick in the Mountain West, rather than joining the Big East as football only members.

There are no easy answers for the Mustangs, but Rick Hart, who the school hired to be their new AD last year, will have to find some if they're going to be relevant in the ever-shifting world of college athletics.

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