The goals for both sides are similar: move towards the future. But according to multiple sources within the Big East, the break away by the Catholic 7 group of schools could start next July and would include the Big East name.
According to sources familiar with the talks, but not authorized to speak about them, the battle for the Catholic 7 schools–Seton Hall, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Villanova, Providence, and St. John’s–is now down to a battle of money.
Big East officials are willing to make this move for 2013 –and sell the Big East name-if enough money is paid to the remaining conference schools.
Negotiations on what that $$ total is are ongoing. According to sources, the Catholic 7 group have also hired the Russell Reynolds search firm, which the conference used in finding new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco last summer.
“Both sides have a feeling that it is time to move on to the future,” said one Big East source. “Both 2013 and 2014 are being discussed, but it’s just a matter of how much the group of schools that are leaving are willing to pay (to leave early).”
By waiting for another season, the Catholic 7 would not be subject to any exit fees. But with a multi-year television offer of approximately $40 million from Fox Sports Cable, the Catholic 7 schools are getting pressure to make a deal which allows them to exit a year early.
Fox officials, who are ready to begin a new sports outlet, want the Catholic 7 and the new “Big East” basketball to start next season.
Logistically, starting such a venture, which includes details far exceeding just basketball games, is an ambitious prospect, with numerous details needed to be worked out, such as hiring a Conference commissioner and setting up an office.
But in the past few days, the consensus towards leaving early has started to build.
With a series of defections by schools such as Louisville, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, TCU and Rutgers, as well as Notre Dame, the Big East has more than 40 million dollars in exit fee money available to be distributed to the remaining schools . The Big East also will receive considerably more than that from the NCAA for its success in the highly profitable NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The 10 schools with full voting rights at this time–the Catholic 7, plus South Florida, Cincinnati and Connecticut–would receive a substantial amount of that money.
If the Catholic 7 schools break away immediately and take the Big East name the remaining Big East schools would expect the Catholic 7 to take a much smaller amount of money as their share, which would mean more for the remaining schools.
Technically, the Catholic 7 could play as a 7 team league next season in basketball, but that would cause scheduling problems. Schools such as Butler, Xavier, Dayton, Saint Louis, Richmond and Creighton have emerged as the leading candidates to join the new league. But to do so on such short notice will include severe exit fees from the conferences (primarily the Atlantic 10), which the Catholic 7 schools might be willing to produce.
Taking the Big East name also has a price tag and is regarded as more valuable to the Catholic 7 than the football branch simply because schools such as Providence, Georgetown, Villanova and St John’s are the core teams from the original Big East basketball conference,, which was formed in 1979.
If the Catholic 7 do leave by next season, the football schools will play a basketball schedule with 10 or 11 teams next season, instead of the 18 that are now projected.
But an early departure by the Catholic 7 could prompt schools such as Louisville and Notre Dame, who are scheduled to leave for the ACC in 2014, to also break away a year earlier.
No official agreement has yet been reached, but the intensity of the talks is increasing and if the Catholic 7 can reach a consensus on how much they are willing to pay to leave by July–as well as a way to get their new league up and running quickly–they are likely to make a move which could be announced in the next several days.
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