After much speculation, the Big East announced Saturday seven basketball-centric schools voted to leave the conference.

The move was not unexpected, but it drastically reshapes the standing of the Big East. UCF is set to join the league in 2013. 

Big East commissioner Michael Aresco released a statement with the news.

“The basketball institutions have notified us that they plan to withdraw from the Big East Conference," the statement reads. "The membership recognizes their contributions over the long distinguished history of the Big East. The 13 members of the conference are confident and united regarding our collective future.  We have a strong conference with respected national universities, and are working together to forge the future.  We have a variety of options, and are looking forward with great partnership, collegiality and optimism.”

It was a unanimous 7-0 vote, according to Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated.

The announcement is yet another major move in what has become an ever-changing college sports landscape.

The latest dominos began to fall when Maryland announced last month it was leaving the ACC for the Big Ten. Rutgers followed, departing the Big East  for the Big Ten, and the ACC soon announced it was adding Louisville to replace Maryland.

The Big East added Tulane as a full member and East Carolina as a football-only school in late November, moves that eventually prompted the basketball-centric schools to discuss leaving the conference.

On Saturday, those schools -- Marquette, Georgetown, St. John’s, Providence, Seton Hall, DePaul and Villanova -- made that move official.

Since 2004, the Big East has lost 17 schools. In addition to the basketball schools, several major programs such as Notre Dame, Pitt and Syracuse have announced their departure in recent years. What happens next for the conference is not yet clear.

The Washington Post reported Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed said the Big East name is among the details yet to be determined. The split of exit fees and NCAA tournament shares also hang in the balance.

UCF president John Hitt and athletic director Todd Stansbury have declined Orlando Sentinel interview requests during the past four days.

Stansbury issued a statement via UCF spokesman Grant Heston Saturday afternoon.

“UCF remains committed to the Big East,” the statement read. “Meanwhile, we will continue to focus on doing what we do every day — making UCF athletics the best it can be. UCF’s story is one of successful athletic programs and a respected academic institution. We are also fortunate to be located in Orlando, one of the world’s fastest-growing and most dynamic cities.

“We are committed to putting UCF athletics in the best possible position for its future. We can do that by continuing to grow our passionate fan base, win championships and graduate student-athletes who will become tomorrow’s leaders. I am steadfast in my belief that UCF athletics has a very bright future. We are looking forward to working together with the other 12 members of the Big East to build that future.”

Heston later issued a joint statement from Hitt and USF president Judy Genshaft.

 "UCF and USF are committed to the Big East,” the statement read. “Under the capable leadership of Commissioner Mike Aresco, we are working together with the other 11 members of the conference to build a future that offers outstanding opportunity for our student-athletes and fans."

UCF football coach George O'Leary said Thursday he believed the conference would survive.

“[A]s long as football is intact, you’re going to have revenue,” O'Leary said. “I think people are going to do what they want to do or have to do, and I think football is what generates the income as far as each school is concerned. When they broke it down and looked at all the Big East, football to basketball, it’s not close. I think that’s what you look at.”

With the departures, Connecticut is the sole charter member of the Big East set to remain in the league. Cincinnati and USF moved from Conference USA to the Big East. The three schools have expressed interest in joining other conferences, but they don’t appear to be close to landing invitations to other leagues.

UCF, Houston, Memphis and SMU are slated to join the Big East as all sports members in 2013, while Boise State and San Diego State are joining as football-only members. San Diego State leaders echoed O’Leary’s statements, suggesting there was no reason for the Aztecs to back out as long as football programs remained intact.

Tulane is slated to join the Big East in all sports in 2014, while East Carolina is scheduled to join in football-only the same year.

Navy athletic director Chuck Gladchuk told the Baltimore Sun the school would evaluate its 2015 scheduled move to the Big East in football only once all the conference realignment moves were completed.

UConn's reaction to the latest Big East defections, issued by president Susan Herbst, was tempered by the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., Friday.

“The tragedy that took place in Newtown on Friday should be the focus of the thoughts of the people in Connecticut and all Husky fans this weekend,” Herbst said. “The University of Connecticut believes that the Big East Conference will continue to be a strong and exciting conference that is comprised of highly-regarded national universities. … We ask our fans to steer all passion and concern to Newtown, and we will honor those lost when we gather together as a university community for events this upcoming week.”

E-mail Paul Tenorio at Follow him on Twitter @OSKnights.