Over the past week a lot has been made about the “Catholic Seven” leaving the Big East Conference. The Big East was once the best basketball league in all the land and the seven private schools had a ton to do with its dominance(well some of them, not you DePaul Blue Demons). The move has been deemed somewhat controversially by some considering the universities are leaving football money on the table.
Football is America’s most popular sport and in turn makes it the collegiate sport that generates the most money. Universities use that money to fund everything from its checkers team to the hoops program. We’re talking millions upon millions of dollars. The seven catholic schools had, originally, a nice deal worked out with the Big East. They would provide hoop credibility, and despite not having a division 1 football program, would be able to share in the financial glory that football brings.
It’s similar, not the same, as selling your soul to the devil himself. The seven schools ended up being at the mercy of football and when departing universities were taking their programs elsewhere, the seven were left with a shell of a conference. Not happy with the conference’s decision to bring in such dynasties as something called the Tulane Green Wave, the Catholic Seven had enough and is currently either dissolving or abandoning the conference all together.
Financially it’s actually a risky move. Leaving those millions of dollars on the table instead opting for hoops credibility once again. We rail against the NCAA and the universities that are in it for always going for a money grab but this is completely the opposite. The seven private schools decided it was much more important to go back to what they were supposed to be(basketball schools) instead of staying in the football money rat race.
In the short-term the move is pretty risky. Whichever direction the Catholic Seven decide to go, they will go their under a far more strict financial budget. They might not even be entitled to conference revenue shares for the NCAA Tournament in the next few seasons. These programs are all going to become a far more “localized” and trips playing teams all across the country are out.
The strongest rumor going on in the mean streets of Twitter is that the seven schools will look at other basketball only programs and form some form of “Super Hoops” league. Also, on the same mean streets, there has been talk of them joining the A-10 to make a 20 team division of a different basketball super-conference. While both similar, they are completely different when it comes to the new “brand” the Catholic Seven will look to build.
I expect the universities, while obviously trying to retain the Big East moniker, to rebuild within. They aren’t abandoning what they built to piggy back on another conference’s coat-tails. It’s really not that hard to see why. They have almost every major market east of the central time zone still in their repertoire. Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C., are all more than desired markets to have when building a new brand.
The key, no matter what they decide to do, is find the best picture-box deal they can find, as it will be their biggest revenue maker for their new conference. Considering there is even more sports networks then ever the Catholic Seven, and whoever will be their new leader(Sorry Mike Aresco, you’re out. Or in I guess, at the dead corpse that used to be the Big East), will have no trouble landing a more than reasonable deal for at least ten years.
The grass isn’t always greener and trying to be something you’re not isn’t always the best bet. The Catholic Seven thought “Football Money” would be their greener grass and being a football conference was something they aspired to be. The Big East has paid for it and so has everyone that grew up loving the league.
Now it’s time for the seven schools to start something new again. Whether it’s going to be nearly, or remotely, as special as the Big East once was is uncertain. But I’m absolutely positive about one thing, when this is all said and done, the college basketball landscape(in a good way) is going to look completely different.
This story just started a week ago and will continue to develop. Let’s hope the sequel has a much brighter outcome.
To be continued…..
Joe covers the Big East(Cough, cough. Catholic Seven) for Rant Sports. Follow him on the Twitter machine @JosephNardone