Ever-changing Big East landscape

Posted: December 14, 2012

THE SEVEN Big East schools that don't play Division I football are planning to leave the conference.

If this news takes anyone by surprise then you just haven't been monitoring all this realignment business very stringently.

More than a few folks saw this move as being pretty much inevitable, once the Big East started coming apart last year because of mass money-based football defections.

The tipping point apparently was the recent addition of Tulane (Tulane?) as a replacement for Louisville.

Hey, I'll trade you Vance Worley for CC Sabbathia. And maybe throw in East Carolina.

Sources familiar with the situation have confirmed that barring any last-minute glitches, the exit will be officially announced soon, perhaps as early as Saturday but probably within the next week at the latest.

The presidents and athletic diretors of those Catholic/basketball-only schools (Villanova, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's and Seton Hall) met Sunday in New York with recently appointed Big East commissioner Mike Aresco to discuss the future in light of everything that's happened.

This apparently was their best option. Again, many have seen this coming for some time. With every membership hit, it became more and more a matter of when. Now we know.

In roughly 16 months the Big East has lost TCU (before it ever played a game), Syracuse, Pitt, West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers. Not to mention Notre Dame for all sports besides football. So what's left? And Connecticut and Cincinnati would leave yesterday if they had an invitation. The basketball schools, who get nothing from the football affiliation financially, simply grew tired of remaining part of something that had grown increasingly embarrassing.

And no, the seven schools are not planning to join the Atlantic 10 anytime soon, as had been speculated. You really think Georgetown is going to play in a league with St. Bonaventure, Duquesne and Fordham, and split the money 20-some ways?

Yeah, right.

Some had speculated that the seven might be looking to dissolve the Big East, but the more likely scenario is to create a new one.

Sources say the seven would prefer to form a 10-team all-sports conference, to keep it simple. At least for starters, with an 18-game home-and-home basketball schedule. The fewer schools, the less you have to divide the revenue. While sources contend that this move is actually more about the issue of controlling their own destiny than the bottom line, expectations are that the television money will get equal to or even more than what they'd be getting if they stayed. Plus this way, they don't have to worry about who's going or coming any longer.

The new league could begin in 2015-16. But sources believe that could be negotiated to 2014-15. There obviously could be lawsuits. There often is. But they always seem to get settled.

The most important consideration is, the seven would not have to pay a dime to leave. And there's no vote needed to make it a reality. Those rules are part of the original bylaws from a long time ago.

The main targets to get from seven to 10 right now are Xavier and Butler, both of which are in the Atlantic 10. They're both good TV markets and have recent NCAA Tournament success, which benefits a conference financially. Dayton also could be a possibility. Beyond that, perhaps Creighton and St. Louis. Sources say that there's already been contact with some if not all of them.

There are other details to be worked out, for sure. Like who gets to keep the Big East name. Sources said it likely would be the new league; that's because with the exception of DePaul, it has longtime Big East members while UConn is the only football school that can say that. And Madison Square Garden probably would want to have the new league as opposed to what remains of the old.

As for where this all leaves Temple - which wanted to get back into the Big East ever since it got kicked out in 2004 and now finds itself in something that resembles Conference-USA - there really doesn't seem to be much it can do. Unless, of course, the ACC or Big Ten wants to add the Philadelphia market. It isn't what North Broad Street signed up for, but the one good thing is it's still better than the MAC.

Nobody said this stuff had to be fair. Just ever-changing.

Daily News sports writer Dick Jerardi contributed to this story.


Email: kernm@phillynews.com

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