The seven Big East schools that don't play FBS football are considering making a break from the drastically reshaped conference — and how best to go about doing it. In any form, such a breakup would be complicated and could conceivably kill the Big East.
Commissioner Mike Aresco conferred by phone with the leaders of those seven schools early Thursday, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because of the sensitivity of the discussions.
The person said the schools hadn't notified the conference of their decision as of Thursday night.
The current Big East football membership includes only four schools — South Florida, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Temple — that are committed to the league beyond 2013. But there are 11 schools with plans to join the Big East in the next three years, including Boise State and San Diego State for football only in 2013.
Because those schools won't be members until next summer, the non-football schools in the Big East could try to vote to dissolve the conference now. Or they could simply leave the league.
The schools that do not play FBS level football are St. John's, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Seton Hall, Providence and Villanova. Officials at those schools have concerns about the direction of the conference and feel as if they have little power to influence it.
If the schools were to break off on their own, they could do so without financial penalty. The Big East has provisions in its bylaws that allow a group of schools to leave without exit fees.
But what they would do remains unclear, as are the legal ramifications of their actions. There has been speculation those seven basketball schools could merge with the Atlantic 10 or possibly add schools from that league to create a basketball-only conference of smaller Catholic schools.
Who owns the rights to the name Big East could even be up in the air.
Most importantly there are of millions dollars that would have to be divvied up, including NCAA Tournament money that is paid out every five years based on appearances, about $70 million in exit fees the Big East has collected from the recent departures and future possible exit fees from the latest members to announce they are leaving — Rutgers and Louisville.
Tennessee 69, No. 23 Wichita St. 60: Trae Golden scored 25 points as the Volunteers snapped a two-game losing streak and handed the Shockers their first loss of the season.
Tennessee shot 47.5 percent to end a brutal offensive slump. In its two games leading up to this one, the Volunteers had lost 37-36 to Georgetown in the SEC Big East Challenge on Nov. 30 and 46-38 at Virginia on Dec. 5.
Jordan McRae had 17 points for Tennessee (5-3).
Carl Hall had 21 points and nine rebounds for Wichita State (9-1), which was seeking to go 10-0 for the first time in school history.
Around the nation
Rutgers: Rutgers has suspended coach Mike Rice three games without pay and fined him $50,000 for a violation of department policy.
Athletic director Tim Pernetti announced the decision Thursday. He said the suspension is a result of inappropriate behavior and language, not NCAA violations.
Associate head coach David Cox will serve as the team's interim coach. Rice will return to his duties as head coach Jan. 2 at Syracuse.
"I was made aware of some things within the last couple of weeks. We commenced a thorough, lengthy and fair investigation and this was the result of that investigation," Pernetti said. "There was obviously some things that are not to the Rutgers' standard that we evaluated and decided upon."
Rutgers is 6-2 this season, and defeated George Washington, 68-65, on Tuesday at home. Rice, in his third season at the Big East school, apologized to his team and the university and says he's made a commitment to becoming a better coach.
Alabama: Guard Andrew Steele will be sidelined 4-6 weeks after having surgery to repair a sports hernia.
Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant said the senior had surgery Thursday in Philadelphia. It was performed by Dr. William Meyers of Vincera Core Physicians.
Steele is the only senior on Alabama's team, which also has lost center Carl Engstrom to a season-ending knee injury.
Western Kentucky: Western Kentucky women's basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard confirmed that freshman guard Kendall Noble is out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.
Noble suffered the injury in the second half of Sunday's 59-53 win at Kent State. The Hazard native knew immediately that she'd torn the ligament, Heard said.
Noble, a 5-foot-11-inch guard, tore her left ACL at the end of her junior season at Perry County Central High School.
She averaged 4.5 points and five rebounds in two games at WKU this year after missing the Lady Toppers' first seven contests of the season with a stress reaction in her quadriceps.