The Catholic 7 is looking to negotiate for the rights to the name of the Big East Conference on its way out the door and there seems to be growing sentiment that it will happen.
“It almost seems fitting that they should have the name,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, whose team is headed to the ACC in 2014.
“I almost think maybe it would be fitting for them to have that title given the tradition and history of those Catholic schools in the league.”
Brey added that Notre Dame “investigated” the possibility of joining the Catholic 7 before the breakaway became official.
“They would’ve loved to have us and keep our football independent,” he said. “And I think we thought about it.”
One league source told SNY.tv that it’s a “real possibility” that the Catholic 7 of DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova will keep the Big East name, but it “would likely require foregoing a good chunk of funds to which they’d otherwise be entitled.”
As the New York Times pointed out Thursday, the money for such a payoff would likely come from some combination of withdrawal fees from departed members, entry fees from new members and possibly NCAA units, which amounts to $17.7 million from NCAA Tournament games played between 2006-11.
“The reason there’s even a discussion at all points to the fact that there’s equity in the name,” Phil McIntyre, chief executive of the Brand Gallery, told the Times. “And the Big East is entitled to money for its name: it was arguably one of the big power conferences.”
Also up for negotiation is the timing of the Catholic 7’s exit and where the respective leagues postseason tournaments will be held.
The Catholic 7 reportedly would like to get out after this year, but it remains unclear if they could pull together a new league — with three or five new members — in time to form a league for next year (to say nothing of sports like soccer that begin in the summer.)
Still, by 2014, the Big East will resemble Conference USA while the Catholic 7 will retain more of the original remnants of the Big East.
“I think if you’re going to do something, the sooner you do it, the better,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said, adding that he would like to see the Catholic 7 keep the Big East name, but that it wasn’t essential.
Villanova coach Jay Wright said keeping the name could help in recruiting.
“I know it’s something that’s going to have to be negotiated, so as a coach I’ll be able to handle it either way,” he said. “We’re all used to change.
“I think it would be great and important for a lot of the original schools, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, St. John’s, Georgetown to have that name. I think it’s a great part of our heritage. I think kids in the Northeast especially relate to it. I think it will be very, very important.”
As things now stand, Cincinnati will remain in the Big East, along with UConn and South Florida, with schools like Memphis, Temple, SMU, Houston, UCF and Tulane joining for basketball.
Bearcats coach Mick Cronin played down the importance of keeping the Big East name.
“Originally, you would think it’s a big deal, but I think all these kids know that the Big East when it becomes whatever it’s going to become, when the Catholic league becomes whatever it’s going to become, the kids are going to know it’s not the Big East of Syracuse and Georgetown and The Pearl against Patrick Ewing, so I don’t think it’s that big a deal.
“I think maybe initially people think it’s a big deal, but I don’t think in the long run it will be as big as maybe you would think initially.”
The other big issue, of course, is what will happen to the postseason tournament at Madison Square Garden?
Will the Garden stay with a Big East Tournament that features Houston, SMU and Tulane? Will it host the Catholic 7’s tournament? Will it do both? Will it try to bring in the ACC Tournament on a rotating basis?
All of that seems up in the air at this point.
One thing’s for sure, the coaches all seem united in their sadness about the end of the Big East Tournament as we know it. Syracuse and Pitt will play in their final such event beginning in two weeks.
“The Big East Tournament, you just hate to see that in it’s old form go away,” DePaul’s Purnell said. “Madison Square Garden, the best basketball league in America having its tournament in front of a sold-out crowd over a four-day period of time in New York City. It’s just been unbelievable.”
As for what comes next, that is just about anybody’s guess.
“In 10 years from now there might be four conferences so it could be a heck of a big tournament,” Cincinnati’s Cronin said of a potential future conference tournament. “You could be looking at 20-team leagues 10 years from now. It would be quite interesting how that would happen, to have those kinds of conference tournaments.
“I firmly believe you’re headed toward four or five conferences. Where they’re going to be, who knows?”