Big East Catholic schools ready to bolt?

A  lower than expected projection of revenue from a new television contract, plus a sense of weariness over the ongoing internal debate between football and basketball interests, have driven the Big East’s 7 Catholic non-football schools to the brink of making a mass exit,

The  seven schools :Marquette, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Villanova, DePaul, Providence and St. John’s could make a move to officially dissolve the conference.

One source familiar with the talks among the Catholic schools said that break up of the Big East could happen in the next few days.  “”We expect  the Big East to blow up tomorrow,” said the source.

A 2/3 majority is required to approve to dissolve the conference, which the Catholic schools with a 7-3 majority would have.

Various reports on Wednesday stated that, after hearing a preliminary report that the conference negotiations on a new television contract were not promising in terms of revenue, the Catholic schools felt they could do better breaking away on their own as a 10-team non-football conference.

According to several sources familiar with the process, the show of unity among the Catholic schools in their Sunday meeting in New York City with Big East commissioner Mike Aresco was the first step in what could ultimately lead to the departure of those schools from the conference. But it was also thought to be very much a baby step, although there were rumors on Wednesday night that the steps were increasing rapidly.

The timing is critical because under the current voting procedures, the Catholic schools hold a 7-3 edge over the remaining schools who also play football in the Big East (South Florida, Cincinnati  and Connecticut). On July 1, with the addition of 6 new members–SMU, Houston, Central Florida, Boise State and Memphis–the balance will tilt back towards a football majority.

A sense of urgency exists, but it is not at  yet at a critical stage. That will change as July 1 approaches.

The first issue which had to settled was the new television package. If the deal is on the low-end–Dennis Dodd of  has reported sources saying that it was in the $60 to $80 million a year range, a total which would pay the basketball schools only slightly more than the $1.4 million they are making from their television deals at the present time–there would be a greater inclination for the schools to break completely away from the conference. Big East officials originally said that figure was  much lower than they expected. In the last few days, that optimism started to fade.

One of the networks that Aresco was counting on coming through with a significant offer was NBC/Comcast which ostensibly needs programing for its cable outlet. But sources familiar with the situation say that the money offered to the Big East by NBC/Comcast will be very much on the low end of the spectrum.

Sources say the  Catholic schools are expected to seek outside counsel to give them an idea of what kind of television numbers they can bring in as newly reconfigured Big East basketball conference. Sources say that former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese and former NFL  commissioner Paul Tagliabue will be asked to provide input and guidance.

Tagliabue was a consultant during the Big East’s expansion discussions, while Tranghese has kept some ties with his former conference.

Aresco’s task is to come up with a solution which can satisfy the Catholic schools–creating a primarily Catholic division in basketball which would allow those schools to play each other twice a season in what Aresco calls “mirror” games was a proposal that would likely have been  approved if there wasn’t  a mass exodus.
Arescol says the Big East will add one more football playing school from the West Coast area-Fresno State remains the front runner-but says there is no sense of urgency on that as he continues to  talk to BYU and Air Force about joining as football only members.

In what seem almost like pre nuptial clauses in the agreement that San Diego and Boise State signed with the Big East, there are stipulations that there must be at least one other  team West of the Rockies (Boise State) and on one other  team West of the Mississippi River (SMU and Houston).

Aresco’s  prime task during the next several weeks, however, will be to focus on getting as profitable a television deal as possible, while also working on putting together a conceptual basketball schedule that will keep as much of the remaining core base of the Big East in the same division.

If the Catholic schools do depart, the next debate will be in keeping the Big East conference name and all the benefits that go with it, including an automatic bid for the tournament champion to the NCAA tournament.

If that does happen, Aresco must regroup with the Temple, Cincinnati, South Florida  and Connecticut and the newcomers slated to join the league on July 1–Central Florida, Memphis, SMU, Houston, Boise State  San Diego State, Tulane and East Carolina in football, with the possibility of schools such as Fresno State, BYU, Air Force and Navy (scheduled to join in 2015 in football only joining the mix to form a 14 team league.

In basketball, the picture is murkier with  a core group of Tulane, SMU, Houston, Memphis, Cincinnati, South Florida, Central Florida, Temple and UConn. That group looks much more like a Conference USA than a Big East league and only has 9 teams, which would obviously be open to expand.

All of this, of course, is based on the Catholic schools departing and  that appears to be a distinct possibility.

© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.

  23 comments for “Big East Catholic schools ready to bolt?

  1. Alex
    December 13, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Asking Blauds for a scoop is like asking if the fight goes continues. Indeed it does.

    • Ben Dover
      December 13, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      You make some good points, I’ll see how it plays out.

  2. Cartographer
    December 13, 2012 at 11:55 am

    They need to go with 6 schools in the East and 6 in the Midwest. All private. Stay away from big state schools with football. Get back to basics.

    E: Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova, Georgetown, Richmond.

    W: Xavier, Dayton, Butler, St. Louis, DePaul, Marquette.

    Make it clear to Richmond that VCU will never be added because they are a huge public school. If they balk, add a second New England team.

  3. Daniel
    December 13, 2012 at 9:04 am

    From what I’ve seen, Temple became a full voting member last July. Although not technically a playing member of the league, they could block the 2/3 majority vote the basketball schools would otherwise have. Might want to do some research on that one… Temple AD believes it to be true.

  4. Ben Dover
    December 13, 2012 at 9:02 am


    Blauds there was a report MSG wants to get out of the castrated NNNNNNNNNBE tourney, would the ACC jump?

    • December 13, 2012 at 10:49 am

      Why would the Carolina schools want to move their tourney to MSG and play in front of a house packed with Orange fans?

  5. zeek
    December 13, 2012 at 6:56 am


    If Temple has a vote, then what happens? Temple’s AD says that the agreement to join the Big East makes them a full voting member as of July 1, 2012.

    Is that true or not?

    If so, then can Temple halt the dissolution process by providing a crucial 4th vote against?

  6. B.A.
    December 13, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Hey GUY, read this clearly- the new football schools could care less if these CYO schools leave. Georgetown and maybe Marquette are the only two with any relevance anyway. No one outside of the North East cares what they do. Football pays the bills whether these bball only schools realize it or not. More people around the country will watch the football inventory but few care about St Johns vs. Providence. face the facts

  7. JP
    December 12, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Every article I read about the schism in the Big East refers to how upset the Non-Football schools are that Tulane was invited to join.

    How could Tulane be invited to join the conference if adding members require 3/4 majority in a vote; and the hoops schools had seven out of 12 votes?

  8. Ryan
    December 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Going to division play might keep the conference together but at this point I think the two sides involved are simply better off negotiating a plan to divide their assets (tourney units and exit fees from Pitt/Cuse/WVU/TCU/L’ville/Rutgers) and going separate ways.

    I’m an advocate of the Catholic 7 grabbing 5 Atlantic 10 schools and starting anew.

  9. ksquare10
    December 12, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Funny how the basketball schools are trying to flex their muscle. The basketball schools are the ones who caused many of the problems in the Big East to begin with over the last three years.

    Their refusal to recognize that football drives the money engine resulted in the totally dysfunctional conference that they are now complaining about.

    Their reality is that if the basketball schools break away, they will receive much LESS money than they would receive in the current Big East, even at the low end of the TV estimates.

  10. mikeinmanila
    December 12, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Mark….how do you come up with 18 BB teams in the BE???

    Last time I checked, the BE will have 16 BB teams after Rutgers and Louisville leave. Are 2 new BB teams being added that haven’t yet been announced?

    • Ryan
      December 12, 2012 at 9:23 pm

      The Big East does have 16. The 18 number comes from giving ECU full membership and adding one more fb-playing full member to round out the fb-conference at 14:

      BE fb West–San Diego St, Boise St, SMU, Houston, Tulsa, Tulane, Memphis
      BE fb East–UConn, Temple, Cincinnati, Navy, ECU, UCF, USF

      adding two more full more full members and going to 18 means 9-team divisions in bb and this would require two football schools to play with the Catholic 7.

  11. Guy
    December 12, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Total mess. Getting new schools together in a conference is hard enough with differing opinions and demands. Trying to shoe-horn that whole process into a hybrid conference with even more parties with additional differing demands is even worse.

    The basketball schools are clearly showing their solidarity to demand better terms, segregate themselves from the new full members or going it alone. The new members should read this clearly. The old guard doesn’t want you and the value you bring to the table is no different than your previous value, which was very little. The new CUSA schools are not hot commodities, not being sought by the major conferences and do not bring value to the media, even Boise State.

    ECU vs. Houston, Boise vs. Temple and UConn vs Tulane will not draw any more exposure or viewers than the run of the mill MAC, CUSA or MAC game. If they did, they would’ve been picked up by a major conference by now.

    The Catholic schools are leaving, they have time and will canvass their options. Those options will be better than sticking it out with CUSA schools.

    • Jon
      December 12, 2012 at 8:10 pm

      Ahahaha, Big East solidarity, that’s a good one. This issue only exists because Big East basketball has minimal value to begin with, and even less divorced from football

      They bossed around the football schools for the past twenty years, this is the bed they made.

      • NJRedman
        December 12, 2012 at 10:45 pm

        Im sorry but by bossing around the FB schools you mean adding everyone they wanted?

      • johnny
        December 13, 2012 at 9:32 pm

        Um minimal value? They are in 4 major markets (NY, DC, Philly, Chicago).

        Has everyone forgotten that the big east was formed as a city basketball league. NOT football.

        My prediction is they keep the big east name. The football schools form a new conference (Called the Conference for misfit schools).

        The “New” Big East will look like this (if i had any say which i dont):

        East Div
        St. Johns
        Seton Hall
        St. Joe’s

        West Div
        St. Louis

        Now that would be a damn good conference.

  12. Jeremy B
    December 12, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Sounds like a pretty fair compromise to me if the 7 schools will accept it. Yeah, its a loaded division, but it’ll be some quality ball for sure.

    • Guy
      December 12, 2012 at 7:55 pm

      True, but the basketball schools don’t need the mediocre football schools to accomplish their goals. I think we will find out before July 1, 2013 that the basketball schools will get as much or maybe more money without the hassle of dealing with football schools and their votes.

      • scoony
        December 13, 2012 at 10:53 am

        Ya, that makes sense. UConn adds zero value and is pretty mediocre in basketball. #sarcasm

        • johnny
          December 13, 2012 at 9:25 pm

          actually they dont bring much. Unless you like NCAA investigations, no Jim Calhoon, no major media market (no one cares about UConn west of new haven and east of the Mass boarder). Plus, they have been trying to screw over the Catholic 7 for years. Basically prostituting themselves to go to ACC.

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