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Report: Big East about to implode

Thursday, December 13, 2012

 

After 33 years and countless big moments, the Big East Conference as we know it may be readying itself for one last hurrah.

The funeral.

According to several media sources, the presidents of the seven Catholic-based Big East institutions - including Providence College - held a teleconference meeting with Big East commissioner Mike Aresco Thursday morning. These same presidents are expected to issue a statement within the next 24-to-48 hours on their future within the league as it presently stands. While a source from inside this group told ESPN the presidents were still exploring all possibilities, the New York Post is reporting the schools will elect to leave the league.

Later Thursday, USA Today also published a similar story on the basketball schools deciding to depart, but without a clear picture of their immediate future.

"May have something later today depending on what transpires," PC athletic director Bob Driscoll replied when asked to comment. "I can’t comment (otherwise) until the dust settles. Hopefully I will know more by Saturday."

What isn't known at this time is what the name of this potential new league would be, and whether or not the "Big East" name, brand and post-season tournament rights would remain with the basketball schools.  If the seven schools decide to move to a new league they would keep their automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament according to NCAA rules, which say as long as they have been in the same league for five years, a group of seven universities can keep their bid after a move together. 

This past Sunday, the seven school presidents met with Aresco in New York to discuss a number of options and to "better understand the best course of action for the future," ESPN reported.

Thursday, multiple sources are reporting the "basketball seven" are leaning heavily toward breaking away from the Big East football members.

What isn't known is if this will be an attempt to dissolve the league, which the basketball schools can initiate by holding a 2/3rds majority vote according to league by-laws.  Or, if the seven schools will simply decide to move out on their own...leaving a battered Big East behind for UConn, Cincinnati, USF and Temple to try and repair.  There are numerous legal issues that apparently make the voting situation a complex matter to deal with.

Sources told ESPN Thursday that UConn President Susan Herbst has made an appeal to the presidents of the basketball schools, in an effort to keep them from departing.  Ironically, Herbst, along with Cincinnati and South Florida officials, heavily lobbied to get out of the Big East and join the ACC when the league had to recently replace Maryland. 

Later Thursday, a UConn athletic official contacted GoLocalProv to deny that Herbst made contact with fellow presidents from the basketball schools, and has not (yet) joined in any effort convincing them to stay.

The basketball schools' decision will also undoubtedly affect future football schools Boise State and San Diego State, who are scheduled to join the conference for football only next season.  Additionally, SMU, Houston, Memphis and Central Florida are scheduled to become full league members next year, with Tulane and East Carolina joining for football in 2014...and Navy for 2015.  Temple is also in the league as a full member next year, having been a part of the football side for this past season.

A Big East source from a football-playing school told ESPN on Sunday, "The basketball schools are not thrilled with Tulane" and "would have fallen off the ledge if we would have added East Carolina as a full member."

Last month, CBSSports.com reported that Houston has a provision in its contract with the Big East that it can opt out without penalty if certain TV revenue figures aren't met. It is assumed that the other incoming members of the Big East have similar provisions in their deals as well.  CBSSports.com also reported the estimated figures for a new television package were considerably lower than initial expectations, prompting the uneasiness from incoming members, and perhaps pushing the basketball schools to their current reality.

With the promise of a new television contract bringing in at least similar revenue to previous deals, the basketball schools swallowed the defections of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Notre Dame and Rutgers...hoping that those dollars could help them remain relevant in a sports world dominated by football.

However, with an apparent decline in anticipated revenue figures, and the reality of facing a watered-down version of a once-storied basketball league...that's no longer a viable option.  Now, it appears it's every man - or school - for itself.

 

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