Conference Frenzy Continues
When St. John’s students departed for the start of winter break, the school’s athletic programs were facing an uncertain future in the form of conference realignment.
On Dec. 15, the seven Catholic and non-football members of the Big East announced that they would be departing the conference in the hopes of creating a new basketball-minded league.
The schools involved are St. John’s, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova.
There is a prevailing feeling amongst the basketball-focused members that by remaining in a football conference, they were hurting their own development.
“Our focus clearly has to be on basketball as our major sport,” Rev. Donald J. Harrington C.M., President of the University said on a conference call after the announcement. “It was more and more difficult to maintain that focus when many of the priorities of the conference were on football.”
One of the biggest issues with departure is gaining a TV contract for the conference. It has been reported that the “Catholic Seven” have been in talks with NBC, CBS and Fox networks for possible coverage.
Darren Rovell of ESPN.com reported in early January that the Catholic schools were in talks with Fox for a deal that could net each of the original seven members around $5 million. Any team that joins the new conference would receive around half that number according to the report.
There has yet to be a decision on what other teams would join the still unnamed conference, but likely choices include Butler, Xavier, St. Louis and Dayton.
The schools can depart the conference without paying exit fees after a 27-month waiting period, but they may try to work out a deal to leave before then.
“If we sit down with the football schools and we agree together its better to do it in 2014 or in 2016, [we’ll do] what’s better for all concerned,” Harrington said, while noting that 2016 wouldn’t be beneficial to either side. “We want to be good colleagues and want to leave that way.”
As for the name of the conference, Harrington said that the decision will come after meetings with both sides.
“St. John’s would love to keep the Big East name,” he said. “I would want to hear from the football schools as to how important it is for them.”