The Big East breaking-apart scenarios, more or less theoretical until now, have hit the serious discussion phase.
On Tuesday, no one wanted to go further than "It could happen," as one Big East source put it, but a number of sources indicated that "could happen" is a new threshold, with a recent rise in interest level toward a split.
A split would mean Villanova and Temple likely would end up in separate leagues. St. Joseph's and La Salle could be hurt if the Atlantic Ten loses schools as a result of the breakup.
The Big East schools that don't play football, including Villanova, have been taking each other's temperature for months about whether to stick with the conference's football schools. The non-football schools met Sunday with Big East commissioner Mike Aresco to discuss all sorts of issues, including a possible split. The meeting, first reported by ajerseyguy.com, did not end with any consensus.
Another Big East source said Tuesday that "in the last week and a half," some positions appear to have changed within the bloc of schools that don't play football: Several schools that have been on the fence about breaking away from football schools may be more in favor of it, while some that have been against it now are more open to examining the issues involved in a possible split.
A number of models are being discussed internally if Villanova, Georgetown, and the others (St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall, DePaul, and Marquette) leave the football schools. The schools could try to recruit Xavier, Dayton, and maybe Butler from the Atlantic Ten. Larger models have been discussed, including adding Creighton and St. Louis, and even making a run at Gonzaga, looking at putting together a national league with two divisions.
Can the Big East do anything to prevent this? There have been discussions within the conference about favorable scheduling proposals for the hoops schools, or trying to add non-football schools that could beef up the basketball side. Or is it too late for any of that? Basketball wasn't helped by the latest Big East expansion move, when Tulane was added for all sports and East Carolina for football only after Louisville announced it was leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Big East now is attempting to negotiate a new television contract. However, television revenue isn't likely to be the determining factor for the non-football schools. There isn't enough money in any basketball contract for it to be the sole determining factor.
If the split occurs, did Temple make the wrong move in joining the league? No. The worst-case scenario still will mean considerably more money, at least several million dollars a year more, for the Owls. A split wouldn't have as much of an impact for Temple as losing football schools that drop the value of the television contract. Keeping Boise State in the conference is more important than staying with Villanova and Georgetown.
ESPN.com reported Tuesday that the A-10 has discussed the possibility of inviting some or all of the Big East non-football schools. "The seven Big East schools have no interest in that at all," a Big East source said.
One issue is whether the non-football schools could vote to dissolve the Big East. If this route were taken, attorneys' fees could pile up. Until more Big East schools join the league in July, the basketball schools have a window of opportunity. A vote to dissolve the league could be made by a two-thirds approval. But who votes?
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. But a league source said "other legal agreements" would make the question of Temple's right to vote a moot one. So bring on the lawyers.
Dissolution isn't the likeliest route if the non-football schools decide to split. All sorts of issues come into play, including distribution of assets, use of the Big East name and brand, and use of New York's Madison Square Garden for the postseason tournament. There are many "legal entanglements," one league source said.
The possibility of a Big East split has existed for years. We first wrote about it the day Louisville joined the league. If it were to happen, the impact would be felt in Philadelphia as much as anywhere, on all the Big Five campuses except Penn, which seems to reside in the only worry-free league in Division I.
The Big East's non-football schools - Villanova, Georgetown, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall, DePaul, and Marquette - are considering a split from the conference.
A new league with those seven could try to join with Xavier, Dayton, and maybe Butler from the Atlantic Ten.
On a larger scale, Creighton, St. Louis, and even Gonzaga could be considered.