Battle looms over Big East name

Temple's Dalton Pepper, a former Pennsbury star, scored 11 points off the bench against Charlotte.
Temple's Dalton Pepper, a former Pennsbury star, scored 11 points off the bench against Charlotte. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff)
Posted: February 11, 2013

Big East commissioner Mike Aresco recently noted that as the league splits apart, the schools that play Big East football want to keep the Big East name.

Consider that a smart bargaining position as much as a statement of fact.

The Big East brand has differing value for different schools in both factions of the split. It's fair to say, for instance, that Providence and Seton Hall value being known as the Big East more than new football schools Houston and Southern Methodist. Another way to put it: If Providence and Seton Hall aren't known as Big East schools, what value have they brought lately on their own?

Right now, we're at the stage of the split where practically everything is open to negotiation and interpretation by attorneys, and all sorts of issues could end up in front of an arbitrator. There are big piles of money, exit fees, and NCAA basketball tournament units needing to be divvied up. The timing of the split itself is still to be determined.

Everyone involved will offer a facade of civility. Behind closed doors? "It's a battle," one insider said.

A lot of schools and their fans are waiting to see who joins up with the "Catholic Seven" for their new league, whatever its name. But first those seven - Villanova, Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John's, Providence, Marquette, and DePaul - are working to get out from the football schools, a group that includes Temple.

The conventional wisdom is that the split will occur after the 2013-14 season. But it will cost the C-7 schools to get out before 2014-15. Look for that earlier split to happen, since television programming for those seasons is part of the mix for both factions. A divorce after one more year doesn't hurt either side.

I heard last week that someone representing the C-7 schools approached somebody at Memphis to gauge if that school had interest in joining their league. (The answer, I was told, was a quick "no.") Both sides of that make sense. Why shouldn't the C-7 try to put together the best basketball league it can? But Memphis also knows that football is ultimately the biggest moneymaker, and staying with Temple and others is the obvious play.

Back to the name: not saying that Connecticut doesn't want to keep the Big East name. Of course it does. But UConn also is hoping there will be more realignment shifts and the Huskies eventually end up in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It might make more sense to get a little better financial deal as part of the split and not worry about the name. Why battle for a name you don't want to keep forever?

What about Temple? You'd think the Owls would like to keep the Big East name. They'd tried to get into that league as a full member for 20 years. And if they had a guarantee that UConn and Cincinnati were going to stay, then, yes, you could argue the case for its remaining the Big East as a brand with value, with Temple and Memphis being newcomers adding basketball strength. (Also, if Villanova wants it, is that another reason for Temple to want to hold onto it?)

But that football group knows where the most television dollars will be made. And Big East football as a brand doesn't have much value anymore. You think of Big East football, you think of everyone who left, not the ones who stayed or joined. This group needs to get away from the punch lines. A new branding makes strategic sense.

It makes more sense to not just give the name away. If the C-7 really wants it, let those schools prove it. Nobody has to write a check. Again, we're talking about divvying up money already there. Would Villanova rather be known as the Big East? You'd think. But at what price? And what about Marquette? You could argue Marquette takes an even more prominent role in a rebranded league since it has its own traditions and current position of strength separate from the Big East.

One aspect of this is a given. Every school that doesn't play top-level FBS football still wants in with the C-7, so that group has lots of quality options, whatever its name turns out to be.

And while it's more interesting to ponder names, the serious talk right now is about money. As always.

Contact Mike Jensen

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