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Losing the Big East name and MSG for the tournament - and other Catholic Seven updates

The Big East 's rights are now part of a bidding war of spitballs.

In two years' time, maybe neither team will play in the Garden in March.
In two years' time, maybe neither team will play in the Garden in March.

The collection of Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, DePaul, and Marquette don't have a name, though the breakaway basketball teams are lovingly dubbed the Catholic Seven for ease's sake.

The group doesn't have a commissioner (and see how much better they've done without a commish like John Marinatto!).

They don't have a place to play their conference tournament - yet.

But according to Mark Blaudschun and John Ourand, many of those issues are clearing up, along with the "battle" for the Big East's football/ basketball rights.

First, a look at the basketball group that includes St. John's and the like. In a jam-packed update, Blaudschun reports the following.

The Big East name won't stay with the Catholic Seven

The naming issue is likely to be won by the current Big East, leaving the "Catholic Seven" to find a new name, despite being made up of the remaining founding members of the Big East except for Connecticut.

Blaudschun: "That battle is likely to won by the football schools which will retain the name "Big East" as long as the league exists. To get around that issue, the league would have to be dissolved which is also not likely to happen."

In my mind, at least, that's to be expected, and current Big east Commissioner Mike Aresco said last week that "the inclination was to keep the name.". The idea that the conference would be able to separate with the Big East name is based in nostalgia and a sense of propriety, not on the laws of corporate ownership.

How that relates to the battle for the NCAA Tournament units and the exit fees from Syracuse, Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Rutgers remains to be seen. What can the conference pocket in the next year of those fees?

NCAA Tournament payouts have a schedule of payments over six years, and it's assumed that the departing schools don't get a share of that. So as departing schools, the Catholic Seven likely get whatever is disbursed in the next season.

(If you think it's not a big deal, obviously you don't like money... or paying for your coach.)

But what about the exit fees? What are the scheduled payouts of those fees, and what rights does a program have to receive those monies after officially not being a member of the conference?

Conference makeup - 10 and a 18 game round robin?

The league will attempt to start at 10 teams - so the seven, likely Xavier, probably Butler, and a lucky tenth from the group of Saint Louis, Dayton, and possibly Creighton - and possibly others, like Virginia Commonwealth or George Mason.

Blaudschun: "Although Fox sports, which has tendered a tentative offer of 40 million a year for broadcast rights, which would start as early as the 2014 season.... has indicated it would like to see 12 teams, the initial thinking among the Catholic Seven is to go with 10 schools, which would allow for a double round robbin [sic] schedule of 18 conference games. Such an arrangement would also allow each school to include high profile–and television friendly–non conference games as well."

The 18 game schedule will allow for more marquee money-making games for the teams in the group. If they're going to start in 2014, though, those other three schools had better be lined up and ready with their exit fees from their current conference.

Xavier knows they're being talked up as a member and are likely ready to make their necessary moves. What about the other schools?

The tighter schedule will help breed familiarity and cohesion among the teams - and makes the conference easier to talk about. I forget to consider Penn State and Nebraska when I'm talking Big Ten, while the top two-thirds of that conference and the Big XII are locked in thrilling races for conference position and the NCAA Tournament, without having a "well, you played DePaul twice" imbalance to a team's record.

(Sorry to use the Demons' program as an example, DePaul. I promise not to talk about you all anymore in this post.)

A Commissioner from way out west?

The league may be looking closely at the commissioner of the West Coast Conference Jamie Zainovich to lead their group.

Blaudschun: "Zainovich has east coast ties, with a work resume which includes Princeton–when Georgetown coach John Thompson III was the basketball coach. His west coast and Catholic ties as the commissioner of a league which has emerged as a solid mid major conference with the development of Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, include a degree from Stanford."

Hard to comment on a commissioner when I do not know his work, but the West Coast Conference remains in people's minds despite having only two nationally-significant programs.

(Will Providence play the role of Santa Clara or Pepperdine or Portland, a small school that generally plays spoiler, and hardly sees the NCAA Tournament?)

The Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden?

Madison Square Garden is also up for dispute; the Big East has signed a long-term deal with MSG before being picked apart by the bigger football conferences.

"That also must be resolved with the distinct possibility that neither league will be able to sign a long term deal at the Garden, which would mean a rotation of sites for the tournament for each conference with bids from competing sites accepted by both leagues.."

Now, that's interesting. So Blaudschun is saying that MSG would break the contract, citing the different makeup of the league, and thinks the Catholic Seven wouldn't be able to get a long-term deal? The ACC may be looming as a possible tenant during Tournament Week, but the Catholic Seven has to look like a viable option there, despite not having Syracuse and Louisville, et cetera.

But that Barclays Center probably has some open spots, and has a thirst to compete with the Garden.

As for the Big East, the only "East" schools are Connecticut and Temple. Perhaps the Tournament could move to Memphis, or Dallas, Texas, or Atlanta - somewhere more geographically appropriate.

The remnant Big East

John Ourand of Sports Business DailyJournal reports that ESPN has sent a matching offer to NBCs reported deal for football and basketball TV rights.

"Discussions with the Big East are ongoing," ESPN says, and the commissioner will have to take the deal to the conference presidents to vote on the deal.

ESPN matched the NBC offer in some form, but "matching" can mean that ESPN matched the (paltry) sum that NBC, in conjunction with CBS, is offering the remaining Big East (around $25 million annually for 10-12 teams) without matching the exposure on NBC.

NBC would put the games on the NBC Sports Network (somewhere on your cable list in the Sports Ghetto section with CBS Sports and beIN Sports and Fox Soccer) and move some the NBC's broadcast network, depending on the game.

ESPN would reportedly not put many or any games on its broadcast channel, ABC, but would sublicense games to networks such as Fox Sports 1, launching this summer. Fox Sports is the expected winner of the Catholic Seven's rights.

A Wednesday night ESPN-online only game is a certain kind of exposure for football, available everywhere and licenseable to a local network, such as SNY in New York, if there is room amid sports content like baseball.

An NBC Network primetime Saturday afternoon game is another kind of exposure, in the football-watching hours but on a channel that the casual fan may not know exists. (And will the online component be there? Very important for the out-of-town fans, and critical in the digital age.)

Additionally, ESPN's move may be an attempt to keep NBC out of the college football game, while retaining a conference's rights for far cheaper than they could have bought the inventory for otherwise.

Your thoughts?

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