The soon-to-be-launched, basketball-driven Big East will formally introduce new members Butler, Creighton and Xavier during a news conference in New York on Wednesday. It also will unveil its 12-year broadcast deal with Fox Sports worth roughly $600 million, according to two people close to the process.
The new league, orchestrated by the seven members of the existing Big East that don’t compete in big-time football — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova — will debut as a 10-team conference on July 1 and plans to expand to 12 teams in subsequent years.
The new league will also announce a long-term pact to stage its conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, achieved by assuming the current Big East’s existing lease and extending it to 2026, a source said.
Retaining the Big East name and the right to stage its tournament at the storied venue were key points of negotiations between the seven breakaway schools (four of whom helped found the league in 1979) and what remains of the football-driven conference it is leaving behind, a league that is considering calling itself the America 12 as it explores its rebranding.
While the Washington-based executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates has been retained to help hire a commissioner for the new league, Dan Beebe, former commissioner of the Big 12 and Ohio Valley conferences, will serve as a consultant to help craft schedules in time for its debut next season, according to a source.
In adding Butler, Creighton and Xavier, the new Big East extends its geographic reach to Indianapolis and Omaha and reclaims Cincinnati. In Butler, it adds the NCAA tournament’s 2010 and 2011 runner-up. Creighton won the Missouri Valley Conference championship the last two years. And Xavier, which currently competes in the Atlantic 10 with Butler, reached NCAA tournament region finals in 2004 and 2008.
Two of the three incoming schools, Butler and Creighton, earned bids to this year’s NCAA tournament. Butler (26-8) is a No. 6 seed in the East Region; Creighton (27-7), a No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region.
The breakup of the Big East, which for years was deemed the most powerful basketball conference in Division I, has been a painful, protracted process, particularly for the basketball brethren that the late Dave Gavitt brought together in 1979. Founded as an affiliation of Northeastern schools in urban markets with strong basketball traditions, the league’s common bond eventually frayed after it added football-playing members whose demand for greater revenue and national exposure rapidly escalated.
But the defection of the seven non-football schools, negotiated by lawyers, was amicable for the most part. In a handful of sports, such as field hockey and lacrosse, the new Big East will explore adding associate members from the current Big East, a source said.
The new TV deal will represent an increase in revenue for the former Big East schools, which reportedly had been getting $2 million to $3 million per year each from the league’s hybrid deal that paid football schools considerably more. Under the deal with Fox, new Big East members are expected to get more than $4 million each, but the division of revenues is still being worked out and will likely include a performance-based component.