The seven basketball-only schools of the Big East Conference met Sunday with new commissioner Mike Aresco to discuss where the conference will go now that it appears that the TV money payday that the league anticipated is not coming. Now the Internet is ablaze with speculation that the Big East Seven will bolt - and even Madison Square Garden is unhappy with the recent upheaval.
The Internet was ablaze with word of a meeting convened Monday by the basketball-only members of the Big East Conference. it started with a single blogger, Mark Blaudshun whose blog "A Jersey Guy" is a virtual fount of information on the Big East.
Blaudshun, whose resume includes the Dallas Morning News and Boston Globe reported:
"...officials of the 7 non-football playing Big East basketball schools held a meeting in New York on Sunday to discuss breaking off on their own... A time frame of six months was set up to make a decision whether to break off on their own or continue to stay within the frame work of a conference whose configuration has changed steadily over the last several months."
Blaudshun reported that the group of seven that met with Big East commissioner Mike Aresco includes: the Marquette Warrios, St. John’s Red Storm, Providence Friars, Georgetown Hoyas, Villanova Wildcats, DePaul Blue Demons and Seton Hall Pirates.
By Monday afternoon, the Twittersphere was equally on fire as speculation that a apocalyptic shake up could be coming to a conference that some wags have dubed "Conference USA, version 2.0."
McMurphy tweeted pointedly:
@GaryParrishCBS: Only reason for non-football schools to stay is big $ from new TV deal. Now it's clear $ isn't coming. So here we go
Not long after that, the blogs on the Mothership and Sports Spectacular were reporting on the meeting. McMurphy and the Chuck Norris of Sports Jouralism, Andy Katz, shared a byline on ESPN on the meeting. And Parrish had his own entry over at CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog.
Katz and McMurphy got to the point right away:
At issue is whether the Big East basketball-only schools have the power to dissolve the league and retain all the assets and brand name. A source with knowledge of the situation said until July 1 the seven have the majority votes and the necessary three-fourths to have controlling power.
Parrish opined that TV money has been the only thing holding the Big East football-only and basketball-only schools together. And with reports coming that the big money payday may not be coming, the basketball schools are not pleased and are considering options. Parrish reported:
One possibility, a source said, is the non-football members forming a basketball-only league and perhaps inviting other relevant basketball schools without FBS-level football programs to join them -- schools like Butler, VCU, Xavier, Saint Louis, Dayton, George Mason and Creighton.
All of the speculation Monday indicates that the Big East basketball schools will want to exert their waning influence and resolve this before the new all-sports schools -- the Tulane Green Wave, SMU Mustangs, Houston Cougars, Temple Owls, Central Florida Knights and Memphis Tigers -- become voting members along with the current all-sports members of the conference, the Connecticut Huskies, Cincinnati Bearcats and South Florida Bulls.
Reports have all three remaining all-sports members -- UConn, Cincy and South Florida -- looking to relocate. The Huskies and Bearcats publicly courted the ACC before the Lousiville Cardinals were added recently. And South Florida has been reportedly working behind the scenes.
As if all that weren't enough, Katz concluded the ESPN report with this interesting tidbit:
Meanwhile, a source with knowledge of the Big East's deal with Madison Square Garden told ESPN.com that MSG is "covered" and can get out of the contract if the league continues to change its membership.
So in addition to seven unhappy Catholic universities, the Big East's access to the most famous basketball venue in the world is also teetering on the brink.
Big West West Division members the Boise St. Broncos and San Diego St. Aztecs have remained steady in declaring their commitment to the moving to the Big East in 2013 as planned. But Monday's news has to be a blow to that steadiness.