Sources: Catholic 7 to add 2, retain ‘Big East’

ncaa-300The Big East’s departing Catholic 7 schools are expected to start their own league next season and will keep the Big East Conference name, sources told ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, Andy Katz and Dana O’Neil.

Joining the Catholic 7 schools — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Villanova — in the new “Big East” this fall will be Xavier and Butler, sources said.

Xavier and Butler have not formally withdrawn from the Atlantic 10. To exit the A-10 with less than a year’s notice would cost each school $2 million, Katz reported.

The Catholic 7’s exit from the Big East is being expedited by Fox Sports Network. The network initially contacted the seven schools and laid the groundwork for them to leave the Big East with the promise of a lucrative media rights deal, a source said.

Fox Sports Network is expected to announce the addition of the Catholic 7/Big East basketball league Tuesday in New York as part of the network’s press conference announcing the addition of Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 channels.

Fox Sports Network’s deal with the Catholic 7 is expected to be worth at least $3 million annually per school, sources said.

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It’s unknown how much it will cost the Catholic 7 to keep the Big East name.

The departure of the Catholic 7 schools, which would officially begin their new league on July 1, also could mean Notre Dame joins the ACC this summer instead of 2014.

Sources said Notre Dame has planned on remaining in the Big East for the 2013-14 academic year as long as the Catholic 7 schools did so. However, if those schools left before then, the Fighting Irish would also look to join the ACC this summer.

If unable to join the ACC in 2013-14, the Fighting Irish would consider spending one season in the Catholic 7 league before moving to the ACC in 2014, a source said.

It’s unknown if the ACC could still add Notre Dame in 2013-14. However, Louisville, which also is leaving the Big East for the ACC, must wait until 2014 because it would disrupt the ACC’s football divisions and schedules, a source said. Rutgers also would not leave the Big East for the Big Ten until 2014.

Last year Notre Dame announced it was leaving the Big East to join the ACC in all sports, but football. Big East by-laws require 27 months notice before leaving, but multiple schools have negotiated an earlier exit. In the past two years, 16 schools have left or announced they were leaving the Big East.

The loss of the Catholic 7 schools also will impact the value of the media rights deal with ESPN, a source said.

Last week, ESPN retained the Big East’s media rights deal by matching an offer from NBC Sports Network. The Big East’s deal is worth $130 million for seven years, including $10 million for the 2013-14 basketball season, sources said.

However, if the Catholic 7 schools are not in the Big East in 2013-14, that $10 million amount would be reduced. The remainder of the deal — $20 million annually from 2014-2020 — was not dependent on the Catholic 7’s membership and would not change, sources said.

The Big East’s presidents still must vote and approve on the media rights deal. The Big East’s presidents and athletic directors meet Friday beginning at 11 a.m. in Atlanta.

It remains unknown which league — the Catholic 7 or the remaining Big East schools — would hold its basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden.

Once the Catholic 7 split is official, the new league will use a search firm to find a commissioner, a source said. The new league also is expects to play 18 league games in its inaugural season.

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While competing with as few as nine members in 2013-14, the Catholic 7 schools are expected to add Creighton, Dayton and St. Louis in 2014 for a 12-team league.

Even though the Big East will have to change conference names this fall, the football league will still remain an automatic qualifying BCS conference in 2013 — the last year of the BCS — and its champion will receive a berth to one of the BCS bowls.

About Cliff Freeman

Cliff has been covering College Football since 2003 and has traveled to nearly every championship game in the past decade. He has extensive experience covering the Southeastern Conference as well as the other BCS conferences. His wealth of knowledge and ability to quickly report on the top stories in the sport make him a valuable asset to the AST Team.