The Big East will organize some fall sports into divisions this upcoming season in order to limit travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference announced on Monday. Men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball will be split into an East Division (UConn, Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence and Villanova) and a Midwest Division (Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Marquette, Xavier).
Field hockey, with fewer teams and associate members, will feature the North Division — UConn, Providence, Quinnipiac* and Temple* — and the South Division — Georgetown, Liberty*, Old Dominion* and Villanova (* - Associate members).
For soccer and field hockey, each team will play members of its division twice per season, which means the East Division schools will play an extra conference game with six teams compared to five in the west. Volleyball will play each divisional member four times. There will be no cross-divisional play.
The divisions will significantly reduce travel for conference members, especially UConn. In the East-West alignment, the Huskies are within a three hour drive of three schools while Villanova (four hours) and Georgetown (six hours) are also manageable by bus.
Looking at the competitive landscape, the Big East men’s soccer East Division is stacked. UConn will have to face defending national champion Georgetown twice along with St. John’s and Providence, who both made the NCAA Tournament last season. With the Huskies coming off a 5-12-1 season, it’s hard to imagine them cracking that top three. In all likelihood, they’ll be battling it out with Seton Hall and Villanova for fourth. Our men’s soccer writer Patrick Martin broke down the conference in-depth here.
As for women’s soccer, Georgetown is the team to beat with the Huskies jostling with Providence and Villanova for second place and St. John’s and Seton Hall bringing up the rear.
Field hockey (which remained a Big East member since the American doesn’t sponsor it) hasn’t lost a conference game since 2013. A pandemic may be the only thing that can slow down Nancy Stevens’ squad’s domination of the Big East and even that may not be enough.
UConn has not officially made a decision on whether or not the fall semester will be in-person but the other state universities and colleges announced they will re-open campuses starting in August.
Though the Huskies typically release their soccer schedules around this time, those are likely also delayed due to the pandemic.