In what could be the first step towards the collapse of the Big East football/basketball structure, officials of the 7 non-football playing Big East basketball schools held a meeting in New York on Sunday to discuss breaking off on their own. According to sources familiar with the talks, the conference included not only athletic directors, but Presidents and Big East commissioner Mike Aresco as well.
A time frame of six months was set up to make a decision whether to break off on their own or continue to stay within the frame work of a conference whose configuration has changed steadily over the last several months. That time frame may be predicated on the nature of a new television football/basketball contract the Big East is currently trying to put together.
The group of 7 schools includes: Marquette, St. John’s, Providence, Georgetown, Villanova, DePaul and Seton Hall. Those schools are concerned about the defection of the core of the Big East basketball conference–Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame as well as the expansion of the conference in football to 12 teams and the inclusion of schools such as Central Florida, Memphis, SMU, Houston and Temple in basketball.
With the poaching of Big East schools by the ACC and the Big Ten and the expansion of the Big East in football and basketball far beyond the northeast and Midwest geographical area the Big East had established in basketball as well as the loss of traditional rivalries such as Georgetown and Syracuse, the Catholic schools have considered making a break for the past few years. But no school seemed to be willing to take the first step. But after a fall in which Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame–all considered prime partners in Big East basketball–all defected, the time frame for a change has apparently speeded up.
The Big East tried to avoid the breakaway by telling the Catholic schools it wanted to set up “mirror” games against its other Catholic rivals, meaning a home and home series among the 7 Catholic Schools. Whether that will be enough to keep the conference together is uncertain. Aresco has tried to sell this concept to the Catholic schools, telling them they can still have traditional rivals while playing under the Big East football umbrella. Whether Aresco made his case also remains to be seen.
If the schools do break away, they would need to add at least one and probably as many as three additional schools. Already mentioned as possible candidates would be Dayton, St. Louis, Xavier and George Mason.
The other problem the Big East must also deal with is how the prospects of a break away by the Catholic schools would affect the current negotiations for a new television contract.
© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.