As the conference expansion roulette wheel spun over the past couple of years, the Big East was declared all but dead only to bounce back from the brink.
This time around, though, there doesn’t appear any bounce left in the conference.
CBSSports.com is reporting that, barring an unexpected change of plans, the seven non-football members of the Big East will break away from that conference, while ESPN.com reports that it would be an upset if those schools – DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova — remained as part of the Big East. An official announcement on the future of the league is expected in the next 24-48 hours.
The seven basketball schools have the power and the votes to dissolve the conference, although it’s unclear at this point if that’s the tack the group will take.
New Big East commissioner Mike Aresco has been in involved in the discussions and is attempting to hold his conference together. Aresco met with the presidents of those seven schools Sunday, and took part in a teleconference earlier today.
What happens to the Big East if the seven schools break away or even dissolve the conference is the great unknown, throwing the football futures of several programs into chaos and uncertainty. Boise State, Houston, Memphis, SMU, San Diego State and UCF are slated to join the Big East in 2013, followed by Tulane and East Carolina in 2014, and Navy in 2015. UConn — the only founding member of the conference that would be left in 2013 — Cincinnati, Temple and USF are the only current members with plans to remain in the Big East if it survives some way, shape or form.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced last year that they will be moving to the ACC in 2013, while Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) announced earlier this year that they will be leaving the conference.
The biggest blow to the Big East is that the tumult and turmoil comes in the midst of negotiations on a new television contract. From ESPN.com:
If the seven basketball schools leave the Big East, it will be a crippling blow to the league’s media-rights negotiations. Last week CBSSports.com projected the value of the Big East’s media-rights revenue between $60 million and $80 million.
An industry source thought the figure would be closer to $50 million, he told ESPN on Tuesday. The estimates reported by CBSSports.com and ESPN both included the basketball schools as part of the package.
If the Big East loses the seven Catholic basketball schools, it would decrease the value of the league’s media rights by “15 to 20 percent,” an industry source said.
Such a development could prompt several new members, particularly Boise State and San Diego State, to reconsider their move. Uncertainty on the part of the two schools and their move surfaced a couple months ago, with the Idaho Statesman confirming again today that the Mountain West would welcome them back with open arms.
Regardless of which direction the situation takes, there appears to be just one certainty — courts, and not the basketball kind.
“Lawyers are going to have to sort it all out,” a source told CBSSports.com. “I don’t think anybody knows exactly how this is going to happen. They just know it’s time to separate.”