Seven schools reportedly are leaning toward leaving the Big East. Is that the right move or not?

Jeff Eisenberg
December 13, 2012

Frustrated the Big East has irreparably damaged its basketball brand with recent additions geared toward saving its football future, the presidents of the league's seven non-high level football schools met Wednesday to discuss their options.

An ESPN.com report late Wednesday night indicated a decision could come in the next 24 to 48 hours and it would be "an upset" if the seven schools chose to remain in the league.

DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova have essentially three options.

They can remain in the Big East despite the likelihood that a new TV deal will not meet their expectations and the chance that new additions like Tulane, Houston and SMU drag down the league's basketball standing. They can leave the league and forfeit millions of dollars in NCAA tournament win shares and exit fees paid by previous departees. Or they can dissolve the league altogether if they have the two-thirds majority necessary to make such a decision.

According to the ESPN.com report, dissolving the league is a real possibility because new member Temple is not allowed to vote on the dissolution of the conference until after July 1. As a result, the seven would have the two-thirds majority they need even if existing Big East members Cincinnati, UConn and South Florida voted against them.

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The ramifications of such a move would be widespread in college athletics because the ripple effect would be felt from coast-to-coast.

Would the seven Catholic schools merge with the Atlantic 10 or form a new league by poaching some of the Atlantic 10's upper-echelon programs? Would San Diego State and Boise State remain committed to leaving the Mountain West for the Big East in football and the Big West in everything else? And would Cincinnati, UConn and South Florida be forced to remain in the ruins of the Big East or would they be able to parlay the chaos into invitations from other power conferences?

All of those questions will come into play should the seven Catholic schools opt to break away from the Big East, which certainly will not be an easy decision. Here's a look at some of the pros and cons of staying in the Big East for the seven potential departees:

PRO: If the seven Catholic schools remain in the Big East, they're still in the same league with hoops powers such as UConn, Cincinnati, Memphis and Temple. That foursome is considerably stronger than any four or five schools the seven could align with outside the Big East, even if they manage to lure schools such as Xavier, Dayton, Saint Louis, Butler or Creighton.

CON: Both Cincinnati and UConn would bolt for the ACC or Big 12 at the first hint of an invitation, so it's foolish for the seven Catholic schools to count on having them as Big East members much longer. Take those two schools out of the equation, and suddenly the Big East looks much less attractive basketball-wise. It becomes Memphis, Temple and a bunch of bland mediocre filler, whether it's SMU, Houston, South Florida or Tulane.

PRO: There's a reason the basketball-only schools in the Big East haven't broken off from the football schools prior to this point: They can get a better TV deal by staying together. Since ratings for mediocre college football games will typically outdraw even marquee hoops matchups, TV networks are more willing to shell out millions for leagues that can provide football inventory.

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CON: By replacing brand-name programs with SMU, Tulane and East Carolina, the Big East has weakened its brand enough that its next TV deal may not meet expectations. CBSSports.com recently reported the Big East is currently negotiating a TV deal that could be worth as little as $60 million annually. That suggests the Catholic schools would only get between $1 million and $1.5 million per year if they remain in the Big East, which is potentially less than what they get from their next contract. Not good.

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