Having absorbed a direct hit by losing the Catholic 7 group of schools over the weekend, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco is about to go into a battle mode with a series of moves designed to not only reinvigorate his embattled league, but also put it in position to emerge as a viable 6th conference that could sit at the table with the five so called Super Conferences–the Big 12, Big 10, ACC, Pac-12, and SEC.
According to sources in the Big East, Arseco and company are planning on exploring the following moves.
1. Sell the name “”Big East”” to the basketball schools after getting some assurances from the NCAA that the cost of losing the Big East name will not cost them too much in the lucrative NCAA basketball tournament. If the name is sold to the new Big East, the old Big East will petition the NCAA to get a 32nd guaranteed spot for its champion.
Aresco is unlikely to do this until after next season since the Big East name still has a guaranteed BCS bowl slot for one more year if it can maintain its composition.
After the bowl games are played next season, then the old Big East can fade into oblivion in terms of its name.
Aresco’s contention is that a basketball league with Connecticut, Cincinnati, Memphis and Temple has a decent foundation to build.
2. Give East Carolina full membership (the original deal was football only) which would give the new league an Eastern group of Cincinnati, UConn, South Florida, Temple, East Carolina, Central Florida, Tulane and in 2015 Navy.
Form a western group which would include Memphis, Houston, SMU, Boise State, San Diego State and either Air Force, BYU, Nevada, UNLV or Fresno. The capacity to expand to as many as 16 teams remains on the board, although the plan now is go into increments as teams change, going from 12 teams next season to 14, 15 or 16 teams in the following seasons.
In basketball, the all sports group would be all of the schools in the Eastern Group other than Navy, as well as Memphis, SMU, and Houston. That would be a 10 team league which could work perfectly in terms of scheduling. But additional teams (UMass) could be considered.
Aresco could also include all of the western teams in an all sports division of Memphis, SMU, Houston, Boise State, San Diego State and then any number of the other group from BYU, Nevada, Air Force, Fresno State and maybe even UNLV.
Aresco’s plan is keep the Big East together as it now stands for one more season in football and basketball, which would be a bridge year between new television contracts involving old and new teams.
The 7 Catholic schools have expressed a desire to leave as early as next season, but the most likely compromise that will be worked out is to give the Catholic schools the name Big East, collect a minimal exit fee which would then allow both leagues to begin operation on July 1, 2014, with new identities and focuses.
“Everyone is trying to make this as amicable a separation as possible,” said one Big East source familiar with the discussions “The Catholic schools were uncomfortable with the way the wind was blowing with more changes that seem to be coming and everyone understands that. It was just time to move.”
The moves the Big East and the Catholic schools make will come in increments, with a series of announcements and decisions being made over the next several weeks.
East Carolina being granted a full membership will be one of the first steps. The Big East naming issue will be the next move. Aresco’s league might come up with a hybrid name such as Conference America, which more truly captures the wide geographical and television footprint it wants to create.
Aresco wants to move quickly and decisively on these moves to assure such incoming conference members such as Boise State and San Diego State that the future with a new conference is a risk worth taking.
All of these moves are predicated on not having any snares over legal technicalities, but the overall intent is to get things moving as quickly as possible to allow both groups to focus on the future rather than the past.
© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.