Friday, March 1, 2013

The Catholic 7 Leaving the Big East, and Taking the Name With Them

By Joe Parello

The Catholic Church may have just lost a Pope, but the "Catholic 7" basketball schools have gone on a crusade to take back the name "Big East," and make sure they get to play their conference tournament in the promised land of Madison Square Garden.

ESPN and USA Today are reporting that the seven Catholic, basketball minded schools (Does anyone else think it's hilarious that they call themselves basketball minded?) are now trying to separate from the Big East before next academic year, instead of in 2014 as previously planned. Those seven schools- Georgetown, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova, Marquette, and DePaul- are now expected to add Atlantic 10 powers Xavier and Butler, plus one other school rumored to be Creighton, to their ranks and form a formidable 10-team basketball conference.

Oh yeah, and they want to be called the Big East.

Oh, and they want to play their postseason tournament in Madison Square Garden. No biggie, right?

Well, seeing that those seven schools represent 70 percent of the remaining Big East teams, they will certainly have the votes to make this happen. This new conference will have a different TV deal than the one we wrote about in last week's Studs and Duds, and is reported to be around $3 million per school annually. Fox Sports Network is expected to announce the addition of the "new" Big East Tuesday in New York City.

This expedited departure means that Notre Dame may look to join the ACC (in all sports but football) a year earlier, or the Irish may join the new Big East for one season before jumping to the ACC. This move also puts Louisville and Rutgers in a bit of limbo. The Cardinals were set to join the ACC and the Scarlett Knights the Big Ten, but both were set to leave the old Big East in 2014.

So, they will most likely play one year in a skeleton version of the old Big East that will include only Cincinnati, Connecticut and South Florida as holdovers from the old league that are not committed to the new Big East or another conference. Then, when Rutgers and Louisville depart for greener pastures, the old Big East will be flooded with former Conference USA teams like East Carolina, Central Florida and Tulane.

Though this seems a bit like a hostile takeover, I'm all for the Catholic 7 getting the name and the Garden. When you think of Big East basketball, do you think of Cincinnati blowing out Central Florida, or do you think of hard fought battles between Georgetown and Villanova? Exactly.

The most interesting part of this whole thing will be what we call the "old" Big East? Perhaps they could steal Conference USA's name, or call themselves the geographically mishmashed conference? Who knows, but one thing is for sure: It sucks to be South Florida right now.