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Big East to Dissolve?

By December 13, 2012

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Another major shakeup could hit the Big East conference in the next few days. It is even possible that the once-mighty basketball power could be dissolved.

The seven non-football schools in the conference - DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova - are "close to a consensus" on what they'll do next. The plummeting value of the league's television contract is a big factor. According to one report, the Big East is being offered about $60-80 million per year in current negotiations. Last year, they turned down an offer from ESPN that would have paid three times as much.

Dissolving the league entirely may be an option. The conference may be dissolved if a two-thirds majority of member schools votes to do so, and after the recent departures of Rutgers (to the Big Ten), Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Louisville (to the ACC) the seven non-football schools represent 70 percent of the membership at this point.

Earlier reports suggested that Temple - a football-only member - could become the key vote to prevent the basketball schools from getting that two-thirds majority, but ESPN sources indicate that the Owls do not have the right to participate in a conference dissolution vote.

The presidents of the remaining football schools - Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida - are reportedly lobbying the basketball schools to keep the league intact... Sort of remarkable, given the fact, just weeks ago, they lobbied just as hard to grab a spot in the ACC.

What happens if the seven non-football schools do split off? Atlantic 10 officials have been dropping hints they'd be happy to give the ex-Big East hoops schools a home. That makes sense on some levels; the A-10 is largely comprised of Catholic and private schools in the Northeast and upper Midwest; institutions like Xavier, Dayton and St. Louis have a great deal in common with, say, Seton Hall and Providence, and the additions of recent Final Four schools Butler and VCU gives the A-10 a bit more juice as a basketball power. But adding seven schools to the A-10 would give that league 21 members, which may be a bit awkward.

Much may hinge on whether or not the basketball schools are able to hang on to the conference name and relationship with Madison Square Garden. That could enable the league to return to its roots as a highly-competitive basketball conference comprised primarily of Catholic schools in major markets.

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