Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Big East Source: ‘If bleeding stopped here, the basketball schools would be happy’
The seven basketball-only schools in the Big East could vote between now and July to dissolve the league, but for now they aren’t inclined to do so.
At this point the seven schools are content to let new Commissioner Mike Aresco work to keep the conference together.
“If the bleeding stopped here the seven schools would be happy,” a source from a Big East basketball-only school told SNY.tv Monday.
As reported by the Providence Journal, the conference, according to its by-laws, “can be dissolved by a two-thirds vote of all members.”
Right now, the seven basketball schools — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova — have that two-thirds vote over the three remaining all-sports schools — Cincinnati, UConn and South Florida.
The five schools that announced they are leaving the Big East — Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Notre Dame and Rutgers — no longer have voting privileges within the league.
In July, as the Providence Journal pointed out, the basketball-only schools will lose their voting advantage when new members UCF, SMU, Houston and Memphis join.
While there is some support for a basketball-only league, those schools risk losing both the revenue associated with TV and their association with the Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden.
According to reports, under the current TV deal, Big East football schools get a yearly payout of $3.18 million, while the non-football schools get $1.56 million.
“If they do [form a Catholic league], they risk losing the conference label and then they risk losing the contact with Madison Square Garden for the tournament,” the source said. “They don’t want to make a mistake by jumping out early and then not being able to get a pretty good TV deal, even though it’s going to be obviously much less on the basketball side.
“That’s why it’s a waiting game because they’re worried about if they did something collectively and tried to reform with others. It all goes around to the brand of the Big East and the Garden.”
The Garden and the Big East Conference recently extended their deal through the 2025-26 season.
“That’s the problem, right?” the source said. “The contract is with the Big East and so if they leave, they lose that tournament, they believe.”
By going to a Catholic basketball league, those schools would also be cutting out UConn, which, along with Cincinnati, openly campaigned to join the ACC but was spurned in favor of Louisville.
UConn remains a huge ticket draw for most Big East schools and is the most successful Big East program of the last decade or so — having won three NCAA championships under former coach Jim Calhoun since 1999.
Still, if UConn and/or Cincinnati leave anyway, an all-basketball league could be “inevitable” down the road.
“I think there is a sense of inevitablity to it,” the source said. “And there is a belief that they could form a really great basketball conference.”
The basketball schools could add several Atlantic 10 schools — perhaps some combination of Butler, Dayton, St. Joe’s and Xavier — but the source said such plans are not imminent.
“I believe at this time they have not made any outreach to any A-10 schools at all,” the source said. “They’re really just waiting to see what happens with this football situation.”
On the football side, Temple was added this year and SMU, UCF, Houston, Memphis, Boise State and San Diego State will join in 2013. In 2014, ECU and Tulane will join, followed by Navy in 2015.
Still, the seven basketball schools talk regularly about a basketball-only league, but, as the Providence Journal reported, “there is not a consensus among the seven schools on its viability.”
Georgetown and St. John’s have been “diehard supporters of a relationship with the football schools for mostly financial reasons,” the paper added.
Football helps bring in additional revenues to the league’s members and will help in the upcoming television negotiations — and so the irony is that even though the basketball schools may want to put themselves first, they are still reliant on the football schools.
“The numbers get better when you have football,” the source said. “It’s crazy, but the numbers get better when you have football. So if they can keep some football, they’re going to try to do it.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.