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Press Box: New Big East is official

The SportsXchange

The Big East announced Friday the split of seven Catholic schools that will start a new conference and carry with them the Big East name.

The seven Catholic schools are DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova.

The split will officially take place July 1, bringing to an end the 34-year run of the current Big East as an East Coast power conference in basketball.

The announcement also confirmed that the new Big East will stage its annual postseason conference tournament in Madison Square Garden in New York.

The agreement includes the football schools in the current Big East receiving approximately $100 million of a $110 million reserve fund, USA Today reported. The rest will go to the departing universities.

In addition to the seven schools in the new all-sports conference, possible additions include Butler, Creighton, Dayton, St. Louis and Xavier.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

---Quarterback AJ McCarron played Alabama's final six games last season playing with injured ribs.

McCarron said he was in constant pain after he was injured on a sack during the Tide's Oct. 27 game against Mississippi State.

Despite the sore ribs that limited his practice time, McCarron finished the season with 30 touchdown passes and three interceptions on the way to the BCS national championshp.

AUTO RACING

---Sprint Cup driver Denny Hamlin said Thursday he would refuse to pay a $25,000 NASCAR-imposed fine for his critical comments of the new Gen 6 car.

On Friday, the Joe Gibbs Racing team backed its driver.

"We have spoken with NASCAR and will continue to keep an open dialogue with them on this matter," the team's statement read, "but we will keep those discussions between the parties involved. We will fully support Denny in his appeal process."

---Danica Patrick was already feeling the effects of a crash last Sunday at Phoenix when she took a shot to the head Thursday night.

Patrick was watching a dirt-track race in Las Vegas when a flying rock struck her in the head. She said she doesn't expect to have any problems this weekend at Las Vegas in preparation for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400.

---Brad Keselowski will start on the pole for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after qualifying was rained out on Friday.
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