The Big East Presidents and Athletic Directors will meet in Atlanta on Friday to discuss the timing and the details of the break up with the Catholic 7 group of schools who announced their departure from the conference in December.
Although no formal announcement is expected, the group, which includes all the schools still committed to the Big East, is expected to approve a plan which would sell the name “Big East’ to the Catholic 7, as well as allow the group–which includes Seton Hall. St. John’s, Georgetown, DePaul, Marquette. Providence and Villanova–to leave in July.
In exchange for leaving two years earlier than the scheduled departure date of July 2015, the Catholic 7, who will not attend the Atlanta meeting, would agree to take considerably less money from a reserve pool of conference money earned by the Big East from exit fees and NCAA basketball tournament shares which is reported to be in excess of 60 million dollars.
The financial details of this arrangement still must be worked out, but both sides appear ready to announce that the Catholic 7 group will leave in July and take the Big East name with them.
Once that is done, both conferences can move ahead with their future plans.
The football group of schools, which will include a surviving core group of Temple, UConn, Cincinnati, and South Florida, as well as Tulane (2014) East Carolina, (2014) Central Florida, SMU, Houston, Memphis and Navy (2015), will play with a 10 team league next season, which will include Rutgers and Louisville.
Both of those schools will leave the Big East for the Big Ten (Rutgers) and ACC (Louisville) in 2014.
Once the Big East name is sold, the football conference must find a new name and forge a new identity–perhaps the Big American Conference–as well as a new marketing strategy for a league which has been literally torn apart in the past 10 years of conference reconfiguration.
The basketball group will have an easier time of it in establishing an identity with the Big East name as well as a base of seven former Big East schools.
A move to expand to at least ten teams is expected quickly. Butler and Xavier are the heavy favorites to receive two immediate invitations–with Saint Louis, Dayton, Richmond and Creighton also regarded as viable candidates.
According to several sources, the expansion will come in two segments. Ten teams–the Catholic 7, plus Butler, Xavier and Creighton will compete in 2013, with two additional teams, Dayton and St. Louis will join in 2014, with Richmond on hold.
Such a move by the Catholic 7 will decimate the Atlantic 10. But the Catholic 7 group, with a start up bank roll expected to be in excess of 20 million dollars, is expected to loan any A10 schools wishing to leave in the next few months the extra $1 million of exit fees required for each school for an early departure.
An early consensus of starting the new league in July of 2014, rather than July of 2013, changed dramatically in the past few weeks as pressure from Fox Sports increased.
Fox has put a $40 million a year offer to the Catholic 7 group, based on a 10 or 12 team configuration, but Fox executives, who are starting a new cable sports venture next fall, wanted the Catholic 7 to begin play next winter.
Barring a last-minute snag in the plans, that appears likely to happen, with an announcement expected in the next few days. A tentative press Fox press conference for Tuesday has been scheduled.
The Big East football schools will hold their meeting on Friday in Atlanta and may also announce their plans.
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