In the end, in a financial battle of “chicken” the Catholic 7 group of schools wanting to leave the Big East, sooner, rather than later, blinked and backed down, accepting a financial buyout far below what they hoped to receive.
According to sources familiar with the talks that have been held between the Catholic 7 group of schools and the Big East football schools, the deal that could be finalized and announced on Wednesday will pay each of the remaining football schools-Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida a significant percentage of the nearly 100 million set aside for the football schools after the settlement with the Catholic 7..
The Catholic 7 group–Seton Hall, DePaul, Marquette, Villanova, St. John’s Georgetown and Providence–had hoped to each receive between $3 and 5 million from that pot. They will take half of that, with each school receiving approximately $1.5 million.
No final agreement on the ultimate distribution of the money has been reached among the remaining members of the Big East football conference.
The breakdown ranges from an 89-10 percent distribution among the old and new schools with Cincinnati, UConn and South Florida each receiving nearly 30 million each and the next group which includes Temple, SMU, Memphis, Central Florida, Houston, East Carolina, Tulane and Navy dividing the rest of the money.
That total would also be adjusted to give slightly more to Temple, which joined the Big East in football last season and will be a full member in all sports, starting in July.
The new members will make their Big East debuts in stages–with East Carolina and Tulane joining the conference in 2014–East Carolina was originally voted in as a football only member, but will be upgraded to a full member in the next few months–and Navy in 2015. Big East commissioner Mike Aresco has indicated that the conference plans to add a 12th team as well, with most of the speculation including Tulsa as the choice.
Not surprisingly, the 89-11 ratio has not gone well with the new members who would like to come up with a more equitable balance between old and new. The new members concede that UConn, Cincinnati and South Florida are the remaining foundation and entitled to a greater amount. But the counter argument is simple: without the new schools, there would be no football league of any kind.
Some possibilities of discussion include:
1. change the distribution ratio to more of a football-basketball percentage of 75-25 percent, which would give Cincinnati, UConn and South Florida 25 million dollars each and give the 8 newcomers 25 million, instead of 10 million ,to divide.
2. The Big East could wave the rest of the entrance fees for each new school–estimated to be $2.5 million, which would then give them somewhere in the range of $3.5 in a positive cash flow to start their lives in their conference home.
What no one is disputing is that all the football schools will distribute nearly $100 million, while the Catholic 7 will walk away with under $10 million.
Had the Catholic 7 waited until July 1, 2014 to leave, the cash payout would have been significantly higher but with pressure from the new Fox Sports Cable network which is starting this summer and will use the Catholic 7 league as a cornerstone for its programming, Fox put pressure on the Catholic 7 to leave sooner rather than later and also take the Big East name.
To make up for the financial short fall of the Catholic 7, sources suggested that Fox might be willing to increase its offer (reportedly $40 million a year for what has been projected as a 10 to 12 team league) by an additional 10 to 12 million, which would get the Catholic 7 schools in the financial comfort zone they seek.
The Big East will also announce its 2013 conference football schedule on Wednesday.
Still to come will be the re-naming of the football conference, as well as a new site for the basketball tournament, since the Catholic 7 group will take the Big East name and is expected to sign a deal to play its tournament in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
In what has been a long and draining siege on the conference, including the remaining football surviving members of South Florida, Cincinnati and UConn, who have been left out of the conference reconfiguration derby, a pay-day of between 20 and $30 million will reduce will temporarily reduce much of the angst.
© 2013, Mark. All rights reserved.