Big East divorce might still be messy

Divorces are often messy business.  Feelings are hurt, bank accounts are depleted and lives are changed.

Say hello to the current divorce proceedings of the football and basketball branches of the Big East family.

The main parts of the story have been well documented.

The Big East, once a superb conference in basketball and a competitive conference in football, has been consumed with inner conflicts for the past 15 years, with schools leaving for more lucrative financial deals and more long term security, with family squabbles and feuds part of the daily routine.

The latest headline news was the decision by the Catholic 7 group of schools, who had announced in December their intention of leaving to form their own basketball-dominated conference. The original departure date was July of 2015. That was negotiated back to July of 2014.

That was still too long of a wait. For the past few weeks, the Catholic 7–urged by a lucrative television deal with Fox sports-worked hard on a departure date of this July. The Catholic 7 also wanted to keep the Big East name.

The football schools listened and said all of that was possible, if the price for leaving early was right.

Both sides agreed to the CONCEPT of leaving early and  letting the “Big East” name also move to the Catholic 7 group.

Details could and would be worked out in an amicable fashion.

In the last 36 hours, that changed. The news leaked and then spread with the speed of a computer virus. Fox, anxious to promote its new cable sports venture, of which the Catholic 7 would be a cornerstone product, let it slip that a press conference promoting the new cable outlet would have the Catholic 7 as the main feature.

The Big East name would be part of it. So would be additional schools such as Butler and Xavier immediately and other schools such as Saint Louis, Dayton, Creighton,  and Richmond.

Notre Dame, which is scheduled to head for the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports but football in 2014, might  consider playing with the Catholic 7 group for a year if the ACC couldn’t take them in early.

All good juicy stories.

The only problem on  Friday morning was that the remaining Big East Presidents meeting in Atlanta hadn’t AGREED  or signed off on ANYTHING yet. No final money offer had been agreed and we are talking millions of dollars that the Catholic 7 would leave on the table for the privilege of leaving early and taking on the Big East name.


People went into the meeting in Atlanta on Friday morning with an attitude of maybe we can do this, maybe we won’t–at least right away. Let’s look at the dollar figures, which are in the millions of dollars range. S

All of this will eventually be worked  out. The Catholic 7 will leave in July. They will take the Big East name.

But….it might cost them more than they thought. And the word amicable is rapidly fading from the use of descriptions regarding the talks.

The devil is in the details as they say, and there are lots of details that must be worked out on both sides.

The trouble with the Catholic 7 Presidents is typical of the attitude that most of the CEO’s of the major college athletic schools in this country carry with them.

They are CLUELESS  on how  to make this all work. Sure, it’s easy for the Catholic 7 Prez to agree to a deal which allows the St. John’s. Georgetown’s and Providence’s of the world to play in a different basketball conference next season.

They don’t have to worry about setting the whole thing up. Hiring a commissioner, staffing offices, finding officials to work the games, not only in basketball, but in the other sports which seldom generate headlines.

They don’t care about the uprooting of people’s lives which will happen in the next several months as this arrangement is put together.

But then again these are the same Presidents in the Big East who turned down a $150 million television offer less than two years ago and were forced to sign off a few days ago on a deal which will pay slightly more than 20 million a year.

They should all sign with deals with Nike, simply because their motto seems to be “Just do it.”

Someone else will clean up the poop that is on the floor.  Just tell me how much money we can make from this deal and we will sign. Rivalries, traditions, other parts of the fabric which makes college athletics still a great deal for both participants and fans,  mean very little these days.

And, yes, it will get done. Somehow, some way. The old Big East will die and the new Big East basketball league will be revived.

They will hold games and tournaments, presumably next March in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, and people will come and people will watch on TV.

The football version of the Big East will also emerge as a conference that plays football next season, perhaps under a new generic name such as the Big American Conference or Conference America. Maybe a rebirth of the Metro Conference would be in order.

The words spoken in Atlanta on Friday by Big East commissioner Mike Aresco will be filled with optimism and a sense of familiarity with his new and former co-workers.

Life will go on, but it could and should have been done in a different more amicable manner.

The only one who should be happy with all of this are the lawyers.

© 2013, Mark. All rights reserved.

  22 comments for “Big East divorce might still be messy

  1. Chris Columbo
    March 1, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Today was a classic board meeting scenario. Everyone was brought up to speed on details. Negotiating positions discussed. One the difficulties in this type of setting is that each of the directors is a University President with a big ego, joined at the side by Athletic Directors who have to puff out their own chests. Mr. Aresco does not have the expertise or background needed to lead this type of group. He is a corporate lifer used to sucking up(which by the tenor i his press conferences i can tell he was adept at)Over time it has become abundantly clear he is in way over his head in this job. That is why we are sitting at March 1 with NOTHING done. TV deal may be agreed in concept but it is not closed and he is a long way from settling the separation . Mr. Aresco you need to be a leader. Now is the time to earn your big bucks,

  2. Jim
    March 1, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    The University of Pittsburgh is the reason the television deal was not agreed to last time around. Don’t paint all the other university presidents as the reason behind it. Pitt is your answer.

    • Joker
      March 1, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      Pitt, Georgetown, Rutgers and West Virginia were the 4 schools that voted against. Maybe Pitt was the ringleader, I don’t know.

    • realist
      March 1, 2013 at 9:39 pm


    • BruceMcF
      March 2, 2013 at 12:20 am

      Which means that the zinger about these being the Presidents that turned down a $130m/yr deal is not actually true … most of the Presidents who turned down that $130m/yr have put in their notice and are not longer voting members of the Big East.

  3. realist
    March 1, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    This blog has been a great source of information and for that I’m grateful, but isn’t it kind of ironic that the author appears to be criticizing the C7 on leaks that he’s pretty much been the biggest purveyor (and beneficiary) of?

    • John
      March 1, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      so true.

      • RudyMass
        March 1, 2013 at 5:58 pm


  4. sad day for basketball
    March 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    UGH !

  5. TU_NY
    March 1, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Mark, can you comment on which Big East holdouts would be entitled to the massive pile of cash from exit fees, NCAA units and whatever additional money the C7 pays for the name?

    Assuming that this group would include Temple, UConn, Cincy and USF, since they are the current full voting members. Can you confirm?

    Also, any idea what the payout for each of those 4 schools might amount to? Sounds like it could be somewhere in the neighborhood of $20M each…

    • John
      March 1, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      Temple isnt a full voting member until July. What everyone forgets is that the C7 still have the power to dissolve league in their back pocket, at least until July. Hence all the talk of it being this July they would break away.

      • Joker
        March 1, 2013 at 5:43 pm

        Mark reported about a month ago that the Catholics do NOT have the power to dissolve the league. You can find it in one of the blog posts.

        After Pitt and Syracuse announced they were joining the ACC, the bylaws were amended to state that dissolution would require that a majority of each faction (football and basketball) would need to approve dissolution.

        This means that 2 of 3 of Uconn, Cincy and USF are needed to dissolve.

      • Joker
        March 1, 2013 at 5:49 pm


        Here it is from Mark’s blog post:

        “The second option would be to simply vote to dissolve the league. The Catholic schools have 7 of the 10 votes which is the 2/3 majority they would need to pass such legislation. But a clause in that by-law requires at least two of the dissolving votes to be football school members.”

        See link here:

        Even more:

        1. The Big East CAN be dissolved by the basketball-only members between now and July 1st. Temple does NOT have a vote on this. Why? Because under section 12.01, conference dissolution can be approved by 2/3 of the conference “Directors”, and because “Directors” are defined in section 3.01 as CEOs of conference “Members”, and because under section 14.01(b) Temple is a “Football Affiliate” this year rather than a “Member” (because it only plays football in the conference). Moreover, section 14.01© explicitly states that “The CEO of a Sports Affiliate [e.g. a Football Affiliate] shall not be a Director of the Conference.”

        2. On the other hand, despite having a 2/3 voting majority of “Directors” between now and July 1st, the basketball-only members CANNOT convert the Big East to a non-football conference. That’s because section 3.01 defines any matter relating to participation in football as a “Football Action”, and goes on to say that any vote on a matter constituting a “Football Action” requires majority approval from the Directors of the schools that play football and all other sports within the conference (referred to as the “Division I-A School Directors”). So discontinuing football participation would presumably require a majority vote from among the CEOs of UConn, Cincinnati and USF.

        • Chris Columbo
          March 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm

          Dissolving is a legal concept that ends an entity. It has nothing to do with football participation. It is a mute point thought because Dissolving also negates the ability to collect the ongoing exit fees from various departing members who are paying over time, as there is no conference to collect them. Rutgers will win its case immediately.

          • Joker
            March 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm

            I posted the bylaws. Take issue with them, not me.

      • TU_NY
        March 4, 2013 at 10:22 am

        According to this article from the Philly Inquirer, with a quote directly from Temple AD Bill Bradshaw, Temple became a full voting member of the Big East as of 7/1/12:

        “Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw said Tuesday that according to the Big East contract, Temple became a full voting member of the league on July 1, 2012.”

    • Ken
      March 1, 2013 at 7:29 pm

      If Houston, UCF, SMU and Memphis do not get a fair share of the exit fees they should refuse to join the conference in July. This is not the Big East we agreed to join over a year ago.

      • Joker
        March 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm

        You can make a case for a different entry fee, if any, but what in the world would be the rationale for getting exit fees?

        • Ken
          March 2, 2013 at 10:57 am

          Notre Dame, Louisville, Rutgers, and the C7 all were members (and had not announced plans to leave) when we signed the contract to join. Therefore we are damaged just as much as USF, UConn and Cincy and should share equally in their exit fees.

          Pitt and Syracuse had already announced they were leaving when we joined, so those exit fees should be split between USF, UConn and Cincy.

          • Joker
            March 2, 2013 at 3:02 pm

            You’re nowhere near damaged as much. How are you damaged?

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