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Article posted: 3/8/2013 8:07 PM

Will fresh start revitalize ailing DePaul?

Is Oliver Purnell the right coach to guide DePaul into the new basketball-only conference — to be called the Big East — that was officially created Friday?

Is Oliver Purnell the right coach to guide DePaul into the new basketball-only conference -- to be called the Big East -- that was officially created Friday?

 

Associated Press

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As another miserable men's basketball season mercifully nears the end, DePaul received some needed good news Friday.

Along with the other "Catholic 7" schools in the current Big East Conference -- Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova -- the Blue Demons are forming a new basketball-only league.

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"I am pleased that this agreement has been reached," Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. "With the long-term well-being of our outstanding institutions and their student-athletes of paramount importance, each group worked through a number of complex issues in an orderly, comprehensive and amicable manner marked by mutual respect. We part ways as friends and colleagues and look forward to the success of both conferences."

The exit will become official on June 30 -- and ESPN is reporting that Butler, Xavier and possibly Creighton are also coming aboard to form an interesting 10-team league.

ESPN is also reporting the new league will retain the Big East Conference name and continue playing its postseason tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

All in all, it's great news for DePaul.

"DePaul University is grateful to commissioner Aresco and our Big East colleagues for the collegial discussions that have allowed us to leave in 2013 and begin our new league," DePaul President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider said in a statement Friday.

On the flip side, the Blue Demons' program is still in shambles, and Friday's announcement does nothing to change the fact that big changes need to be made.

Heading into Saturday's game against No. 20 Pitt at Allstate Arena, DePaul (11-19, 2-15 in the Big East) is a shockingly bad 7-82 in conference play dating back to the 2008-09 season.

And since beating No. 17 Villanova on Jan. 3, 2008, the Demons have lost 43 straight games against ranked opponents.

As they move into the revamped Big East next season, there are plenty of questions surrounding this once-powerful program:

•Is Oliver Purnell the right coach to move DePaul ahead?

Now in his third season with the Blue Demons, the 59-year-old Purnell has a 30-62 record. He's taken Old Dominion, Dayton and Clemson to NCAA Tournaments, but Purnell's plan for rebuilding DePaul is still stuck in neutral.

•Is Jean Lenti Ponsetto the right athletic director to move DePaul ahead?

She's been AD since July 1, 2002 and has been rooted in the program since 1974, when she played four sports.

The men's basketball program is far and away the focal sport at DePaul, and the Blue Demons haven't qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 2003-04.

College athletics is not all about wins and losses, but ADs tend to disappear during an extended stretch of futility.

•Can Purnell recruit?

His two best players, Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young, are from Baltimore.

Purnell did land a big-time player, Morgan Park High School's Billy Garrett Jr., for next year, and that's an encouraging get out of Chicago.

On Thursday night, Purnell was in the stands to watch a pair of juniors -- Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor and Curie's Cliff Alexander -- battle in a playoff game. Nabbing one or both of the nationally rated big men would almost instantly put DePaul basketball back on the map.

•Are the Blue Demons moving to a new home?

DePaul has played at Allstate Arena, formerly the Rosemont Horizon, since 1980, which is great for alumni living in the Northwest suburbs.

But the facility is a hike from the Blue Demons' Lincoln Park campus, and that hurts recruiting.

There has been talk that DePaul is ultimately heading to a new arena near McCormick Place, or possibly the United Center.

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