Could the Catholic Seven leave this year? It's starting to look like it.

When the Catholic Seven announced their inevitable departure from the Big East a few months back, the common wisdom was that they were most likely to stay in the conference through the 2014 season and then form their new league as Notre Dame and Louisville also left. Now, thanks to a series of reports over the last 24 hours, it seems possible that the Catholic Seven could move their departure up a year and start their new league in July 2013.

From A Jersey Guy last night:

[A]ccording to multiple sources within the Big East, the break away by the Catholic 7 group of schools could start next July and would include the Big East name.

...

Big East officials are willing to make this move for 2013 -and sell the Big East name-if enough money is paid to the remaining conference schools.

...

"Both sides have a feeling that it is time to move on to the future," said one Big East source. "Both 2013 and 2014 are being discussed, but it's just a matter of how much the group of schools that are leaving are willing to pay (to leave early)."

And here was Andy Katz this morning:

The seven non-FBS Big East schools have always wanted to exit for the 2013-14 season if they could get out in time and the TV deal -- with Fox -- was done. The problem is they can't and don't want to leave, according to a high-level source within the seven, until they have secured the other three schools to be a 10-team league. The seven are confident, though, that they can extract three schools (likely Butler, Xavier and one other) on short notice. The Atlantic 10 confirmed that it would cost each school $2 million to get out early, money that won't be an issue for the seven and Fox to offset. The logistics of setting up a league, including soccer in August, are what could keep the seven in the Big East until the fall of 2014.

And now the Providence Journal has chimed in:

Various reports Thursday say that the so-called Catholic Seven schools, including Providence College, are nearing an agreement with the Big East on dividing millions of dollars, a separation date and control over items like the Madison Square Garden post-season contract and the Big East name itself.

No one would confirm how close an agreement is on all those issues but an announcement could come as early as Friday.

There's obviously a lot to be worked out, and the Seven would need to both invite a handful of new members and establish the framework of a conference in just a few short months, but the uptick in chatter sure makes a quick move seem like something they think is possible. If it does happen it shouldn't change anything for UConn football next year (Louisville is still locked in, as they can't go to the ACC until Maryland does), but basketball would suddenly find itself playing in a much smaller 10-team league.

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