At first glance, 1:30 p.m. CST on a Saturday might seem like an odd time to release the official announcement that you and six of your closest Catholic friends are leaving your conference, but you know what? We're in strange territory here, people: turning their backs on the FOOTBAWWWW establishment and boldly, courageously, and maybe foolhardily going their own way, the Catholic 7 -- better known to you as Marquette, Georgetown, DePaul, St. John's, Villanova, Seton Hall, and Providence -- issued a press release minutes ago confirming that they're collectively leaving the Big East Conference.
Via CollegeBasketballTalk's Rob Dauster, here's the release from the presidents of the C7 schools:
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. Under the current 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.
We are grateful to our Commissioner, Michael Aresco, for his exceptional leadership of the Big East Conference. We have been honored to be associated with the outstanding group of institutions that have made up the Big East. While we pursue this opportunity for our institutions, we believe the efforts of the past two years have established the foundation for an enduring national football conference.
We look forward to building this new foundation with an emphasis on elite competition and a commitment to the development of our students engaged in intercollegiate athletics. That is where we will now spend our energy as we move forward.
Here's a bit more from Marquette's president, Rev. Scott Pilarz, and athletic director, Larry Williams:
Dear members of the Marquette community,
We are writing to inform you today that Marquette University, along with six other colleges and universities, has made a decision to end our association with the BIG EAST Conference. DePaul University, Georgetown University, Providence College, Seton Hall University, St. John's University and Villanova University have also ended their association with the conference, and together we will explore our options to develop a premier athletics conference centered on elite-level basketball.
So many of you fondly recall both the historical and modern successes of Marquette Athletics, including our men's basketball program, from our National Championship in 1977, our Final Four appearance in 2003 and the back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in 2011 and 2012. This move will allow us to enhance the elite status of our men's basketball program, which we were not willing to compromise amid the shifting landscape of intercollegiate athletics. It also allows us to develop new opportunities for student athletes in all 16 of our competitive athletic programs. Several of these programs capped off banner years this fall: women's soccer made another NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in its seventh trip to the NCAA tournament in eight years; women's volleyball won 27 games en route a second straight NCAA tournament appearance; and men's soccer rose to a national ranking of number two in its regular season, while also making an NCAA tournament appearance.
Over the past 15 months, the seven presidents and athletic directors of the universities previously named have been in a thoughtful dialogue to ensure we jointly solidify our vision and commitment to compete at the absolute highest levels of athletic excellence for many years to come. In the past few weeks, after the recent departures of Big East Conference members, our conversations became more urgent and gained momentum. Beyond the playing fields, this move offered a tremendous opportunity to deepen our alignment with mission-driven institutions concerned with the personal and academic growth of student athletes.
In addition to aligning our university with strong peer institutions, we also saw great value in retaining our presence in key geographic locations where we have a large representation of both Marquette alumni and current students. The six peer institutions have locations in Chicago, Washington, D.C., New England, New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia, which will provide an infrastructure needed to obtain the highest levels of success.
As we look ahead to a new future for Marquette University Athletics, we want to thank you for your continued and enthusiastic support.
Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.
Vice President and Director of Athletics
Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid, that lady in Almost Famous once said. Let's hope that's the situation here.