And the idea of revving up their new league for the 2013-14 season is not entirely out of question.
"I'm hoping in a couple of weeks we'll have that (separation) piece done," DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto told the Tribune. "And then once that piece gets done, the next step is to determine the (start) date, and that would be part of the negotiation of whether it's 2014, or if it's 2015 or if there's a possibility if it could be 2013."
Of the separation agreement, Ponsetto noted that was more her hope than any firm timetable provided her. But Marquette athletic director Larry Williams characterized her view as a little more than idle chatter.
"It's fairly educated optimism," Williams told the Tribune.
Marquette, St. John's, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Providence, Villanova and DePaul had agreed to separate from the Big East and form the new league.
The football schools recently finalizing a media rights deal with ESPN more or less allowed attention to be spent on negotiating the circumstances under which the basketball schools would move on. Separation is the first step, after which comes establishing the start date and adding new schools to the new league.
Ponsetto has told her coaches to plan as if DePaul will be in the Big East one more year, but neither she nor Williams outright rejected the notion of beginning in 2013-14.
"Every school is committed to making it happen, whether that's on a super-compressed timeline or a little bit less compressed timeline," Williams said. "Even if it starts next summer, there's still a lot of work to do. If it's going to happen this summer? There are going to be some real, real long days. But I think everybody is committed to doing it.
"It could still get done. We could still build it in that time frame. It's going to put some people in pretty uncomfortable positions. Markus Roeders, our (women's) soccer coach, is going to have to go out and find a couple of other non-conference games -- well, that's going to be kind of hard to do at this late date. It's going to get really uncomfortable in that really tight timeline, but I still think we can get it done."
It's generally accepted that a 2014-15 start date is more likely, given the need to add more schools toward a goal of 12, total. (The media rights deal for the new league is expected to fall in place more or less simultaneously with the separation agreement.) But there's a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg scenario with new membership, too -- do you need the start date or new programs first?
"From my perspective, I don't think you want to create a lot of consternation or upheaval in another conference until you're absolutely certain that it's fairly imminent," Ponsetto said. "It is disruptive. College athletics has gone through a lot of transition the last couple of years, and all of us want to be more on the side of creating more stability."