March 25, 2013 – Driven to find a sense of security in this time of conference realignment, the seven Catholic schools of the Big East have stepped away from the other members of the conference. The Catholic 7 includes Providence College, St. John’s, DePaul, Villanova, Georgetown, Marquette and Seton Hall. These institutions are powered by their basketball operations and do not field football teams. As a result the separation from the other football playing schools was inevitable.
With West Virginia leaving the league last year for the Big 12 (MAC for soccer), and future departure of Rutgers to the Big Ten and Notre Dame, Syracuse, Pittsburg, and Louisville to the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Catholic 7, along with Connecticut, South Florida, and Cincinnati were left scrambling to protect their athletes. It’s now official that the Catholic 7 will create their own conference, and keep the rights to the Big East name and also Madison Square Garden (home of the Big East men's basketball tournament).
Joining the Catholic 7 is Creighton from the MVC, Butler from the Atlantic 10 and Xavier from the Atlantic 10.
Meanwhile South Florida, Cincinnati, and Connecticut were left to create their own conference, the name yet to be determined, and join with the other institutions that were planning to take the place of the ones that left to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big 12, and the Big Ten. The new unnamed conference will include Connecticut, South Florida, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Temple, Tulane, SMU, Memphis, East Carolina, and Houston in all sports. (Tulane, East Carolina, and Houston do not field men’s soccer teams.
What does all this mean for college soccer?
When it is all said and done, the Atlantic Coast Conference which will lose Maryland to the Big Ten in 2014 but will gain Notre Dame, Syracuse, Louisville, and Pitt will be even more powerful.
The Big Ten will benefit from the addition of Rutgers and Maryland in 2014.
The new look ten member Big East will remain a national power.
The yet to be named conference consisting of Connecticut, South Florida, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Temple, SMU, and Memphis should also continue to generate a little noise on the national scene in men’s soccer.
A Look At The New Big East
Creighton – The Bluejays will bring loads of recent success to the league. They have been more successful than any former or current Big East team. Creighton will look to compete for regular season and conference tournament titles immediately. It’s also worth noting that Creighton’s Morrison Stadium is considered to be among the premier college soccer stadiums in the country.
Xavier – The Musketeers will likely fit right into the middle of the pack in the league but could surprise. They will enter with three consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament. Expect Xavier to contend for another NCAA Tourney berth but they could struggle with the top to bottom quality of the new league.
Butler – The Bulldogs will likely struggle with the transition from the A-10 where they finished near the bottom in 2012. Accordingly expect Butler to finish toward the bottom of the new league, but they could take a few wins and surprise some teams.
Georgetown – The Hoyas will look to emulate the 2012 season that saw them reach the Final Four of the NCAA Championship. They will be the preseason favorite to win the league with seven returning starters including All-American senior forward Steve Neumann and sophomore sensation Brandon Allen back to power the offense. With a College Soccer News four star rated recruiting class coming on board the Hoyas should pick up right where they left off last year.
St. John’s – The Red Storm will look to improve on an impressive regular season where they finished third in the Red Division last year. The Johnnies earned an at-large berth into the NCAA Tourney but fell to Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round. They bring a great deal of history and success to the new league, and will contend for the regular season title.
Villanova – The best team to not earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last season, the Wildcats will look to make the leap into the national tournament in 2013. Losing five starters, Nova will be up against it, but the bitter taste from last seasons unexpected end might push them through. Expect the Wildcats to finish in the middle of the new league.
DePaul – With another poor season in 2012, the Blue Demons will struggle next season without their All-Big East First Team member Antonio Aguilar. Fortunately, Aguilar is the only graduating senior on a team that recorded only four wins last year, so they will hope to build on the experience they gained last year. Look for DePaul to finish towards the bottom of the table next season.
Seton Hall – The Pirates were a victim of the difficult Big East schedule. They won only two league games and four non-conference games. The Pirates seem to be moving in the right direction under recently appointed head coach Gerson Echeverry. Seton Hall loses only one player to graduation, senior Michael Kuzan, who split time in goal last year. Expect the Pirates to build on their trip to the Big East Tourney, and look to move off the bottom of the league table.
Marquette – The Golden Eagles had a magical season in 2012, the best in school history. Unfortunately, their regular season success did not translate into post season success. They fell in the Big East Tournament semi-final to Georgetown and then lost to Northwestern in the NCAA Tourney. With a strong recruiting class, Marquette will hope to decorate the trophy case again in 2013.
Providence – Providence College had a down year in 2012 under new head coach Craig Stewart. After earning NCAA Tourney berths in four out of six seasons prior to the 2012 campaign, the Friars failed to compete for any post season play when they failed to qualify for the Big East tournament. With only three graduating seniors, and a strong recruiting class coming on board, the Friars will hope to prove last year was just a hiccup, and return to form. Look for Providence to bounce back in 2013 and to play their way back into the middle of the pack in the new league.