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Conference Realignment: The Big East is Headed for Mouseville

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The league is walking the Green Mile.

Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

The Big East entered Division I lacrosse in the most ass-backwards way possible: With Syracuse kicking and screaming and the other league members championing their individual futures based on the Orange eventually coming around to the idea that lacrosse confederation would be a good thing -- for each program and the game itself. Syracuse was the linchpin to the entire idea; if the Orange would give up its historic independence and play a conference schedule -- including a year-end tournament -- the rising tide would lift all boats. Like supply-side economics, you can argue that it all worked, until, of course, Syracuse and Notre Dame charted a course for ACC waters and the rest of the armada didn't bother to bring maps aboard their ships.

CBSSports.com -- via hoops writer Gary Parrish -- is the first big outlet (that isn't The New York Post) to go official with the news that the remaining members of the Big East's lacrosse league -- Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, and Villanova -- are departing the conference in totem, thus rendering Big East lacrosse obsolete, left to the annals of history:

The Big East's seven non-football-playing members have decided to separate from the league's football-playing members and will announce it soon barring an unexpected change of plans, multiple sources within the conference told CBSSports.com on Thursday.

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What happens next is unclear.

"Lawyers are going to have to sort it all out," the source told CBSSports.com. "I don't think anybody knows exactly how this is going to happen. They just know it's time to separate."

For the record: Big East men's lacrosse play began in 2010; the league held its first tournament in 2012 when it earned an automatic qualifying invitation to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year waiting period; and will (likely) not exist in less than five years of competitive sponsorship. All the initial plans built around the league are now evaporated, leaving Marquette -- which, in part, put together a varsity program to compete in the Big East and get guaranteed games against Notre Dame and Syracuse each season -- and the rest (notably Providence, which is in the midst of building a joint soccer, lacrosse, and track facility) to try and figure out their future. It's up for debate as to which school gets hurt the most due to the demolition of the conference, but this much is clear: Nothing is in focus right now -- for lacrosse purposes -- for any of these institutions.

From the time it was announced that the Big East's "basketball-onlies" were considering breaking away from the league, not much has changed in terms of lacrosse consequence. (I'm not going to rehash it in this piece. Rather, I'll point you in the direction of this piece that lays out some initial thoughts around what may or may not happen.) There is one thing that has emerged, though, that is interesting: Brett McMurphy, Andy Katz, and Dana O'Neil of ESPN note that there is an NCAA rule that states that if a group of seven schools that have been in the same league for five years and choose to remain together, they can keep their automatic invitation to the NCAA (basketball) Tournament. There appears to be a similar exception in the NCAA Division I manual for lacrosse -- it looks like it appears under 31.3.4.6(a) (I could be wrong on this; I only quickly scanned the manual) -- but whether the schools will pursue this or if the NCAA will grant the departing Big East schools relief is -- at best -- wildly guessing at complex social problems involving bears sitting with humans while watching Duck Dynasty on the television. So, yeah; I'm running from feeding conjecture on that point until someone contacts an athletic director or sports information director to confirm that this is more than "Maybe? I don't know."

This isn't a good situation for any of these schools on the lacrosse side of things, and it further reinforces the fact that realignment decisions create really difficult lacrosse decisions that don't have a lot of easy, defined, or pre-arranged answers. If you need me, I'll be taking a wood planer to my skin to get the smell of all this off of me.