Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Big East basketball schools weighing options

THE Catholic/basketball-only Big East schools have been sitting idly by for more than a year now watching their beloved/lucrative conference disintegrate and become unrecognizable.

THE Catholic/basketball-only Big East schools have been sitting idly by for more than a year now watching their beloved/lucrative conference disintegrate and become unrecognizable.

Tradition is nice. Money is nicer. Both are disappearing quickly.

So, Sunday in New York, the presidents and athletic directors of the seven Big East Catholic schools (Villanova, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette, St. John's and DePaul) got together with still-new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco, who probably was hoping to avoid that iceberg in his first few months in office. They wanted to consider options.

One of those options is going back to the future, making the Big East a basketball-only league again and breaking away from the new Big East. Nobody knows how the money would work, even if enough money would be there in this football-driven world. But they are considering options. And given that new members will be coming in this summer and that television contracts are ending soon, the time to consider those options is now.

Right now, it is chaos. First, it was Syracuse and Pittsburgh announcing last year they were leaving. Then, Notre Dame. Now, it is Rutgers and Louisville.

The football schools are looking for a safe and financially lucrative spot to land. Eventually, there likely will be four or possibly five super conferences looking to max out football cash. The Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 are going nowhere. The Big 12 and the ACC may both survive, but there is a chance only one does. The Big East is no longer a player at the big-boy football table.

That impacts Villanova and it also impacts new member Temple. The league had a chance at a terrific television contract with ESPN last year, but held out for more, even though there were some who said it was really good money and they should take it. Now, that deal is long gone because the league is so much less attractive. The basketball contract is up at the end of this season, the football contract at the end of 2013.

Right now, networks don't know what they are bidding on, so they are understandably reluctant to make a commitment. And it won't help that this meeting among the basketball schools took place. It is equally hard for the league to make a pitch because its membership keeps changing.

For a long time, the basketball schools were willing to acquiesce to the football side because the money was there. The same money is not going to be there for Memphis, Temple, Tulane, Central Florida, SMU and Houston as it was for the defectors. And everybody knows Cincinnati or Connecticut will be on the first trains out of Big East town if they get an offer from one of the Supers.

Temple had a great Big East football rival in Rutgers. Now, it does not.

The Big East looked like financial salvation for Temple football. It still looks better than the MAC, but not as good as it once did.

If the Big East basketball schools do break away to form a baskeball-only league, seven won't be enough. So, they will have to try to poach teams from other leagues. You hear names like Xavier, Dayton, Creighton, Saint Louis and Butler. But maybe those schools like where they are? If "The Seven'' do a breakaway, who keeps the name? Who gets to play at Madison Square Garden? And, most importantly, where is the money and how much is there?

Lots of questions. Not a lot of answers.

And even if they eventually form a basketball-only league that attracts serious network money, what happens when the super conferences max out their football revenue? Nobody is trying to fake it anymore. This is a big business.

Where is the rest of the money beyond football? The NCAA Tournament, of course. What would prevent the Supers from deciding to cut out the middle man, the NCAA, and sell themselves to the highest bidder for basketball as well?

If you don't think that could happen, rewind 10 years and see if you could have imagined what has already happened. Anything is possible, including a basketball-only, quasi Big East.

Stay tuned, but only make one assumption: It will be about the money.