And, just as officially, the remaining football members trudge off into the great unknown.
Following up on reports from earlier in the week, seven members of the Big East with non-FBS football programs – DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova — announced Saturday that they have voted unanimously to withdraw from the conference. The when is still to be determined, although it could happen as early as next season if an increased exit fee is negotiated.
While acknowledging the contributions the basketball schools made over the years, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco maintained a confident tone in his statement that the conference will be able to move forward. Whether it’s a false confidence remains to be seen.
“The 13 members of the Conference are confident and united regarding our collective future,” the statement from the commissioner read. “We have a strong Conference with respected national universities, and are working together to forge the future. We have a variety of options, and are looking forward with great partnership, collegiality and optimism.”
With the departures, the Big East will be left with 10 members in 2013; 12 in 2014; and 13 in 2015.
All-sports-wise in 2013, the Big East will consist of current members Cincinnati, Temple, UConn and USF along with incoming members Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF. Tulane will join as an all-sports member in 2014. Boise State and San Diego State are slated to join as football-only members in 2013, followed by East Carolina in 2014 and Navy in 2015.
Whether the Big East remains a viable football conference beyond 2013 will likely be directly tied to television revenue. The conference is currently in the midst of negotiations with various networks on a new TV deal, with the hope heading in of a deal that would pay $100 million annually or more. Even prior to the seven basketball schools leaving, however, that projection had dropped to between $50-$80 million a year depending on the report. One report figured the hoops members departing would decrease the value of a new TV deal by 15-20 percent.
Thus, each school could be looking at (very roughly) a low end of $3 million annually to around $6-7 million.
Would those numbers, or anywhere in between, be enough to keep Boise State and San Diego State from fleeing back to the Mountain West? Seeing as they’re only earning around $1.6 million, it would still likely be worth their while even on the low end.
There’s also the very real possibility that the likes of Cincinnati and UConn, which both made a push to replace Maryland in the ACC before the spot went to current Big East member Louisville, could continue to push for future membership in that conference or even the Big Ten.
Regardless, the future of the conference remains extremely tenuous and immensely fragile — no matter how much public confidence the commissioner displays.
UPDATED 3:51 p.m. ET: UConn released a statement from president from Susan Herbst in the wake of the members’ departure.
“The tragedy that took place in Newtown on Friday should be the focus of the thoughts of the people in Connecticut and all Husky fans this weekend.
“The University of Connecticut believes that the BIG EAST Conference will continue to be a strong and exciting conference that is comprised of highly-regarded national universities.
“We ask our fans to steer all passion and concern to Newtown, and we will honor those lost when we gather together as a university community for events this upcoming week.”