Unified basketball schools continue to plot future


Unified basketball schools continue to plot future

VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Villanova's Big East banner that hangs in the rafters already has a white patch stitched over West Virginia.

The Wildcats can now start putting Xs over most of the rest of the conference schools, as well.

The Big East - a proud league built on basketball moments like the 1985 Wildcats stunning conference rival Georgetown in the national championship game - will soon become extinct, even if the name lives on in some unrecognizable form.

On Saturday, Villanova, Georgetown, St. John's, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall and Providence all decided to officially separate from the conference many of them helped to build, so they can construct a league focused on basketball in this ever-changing landscape of college athletics.

The breakaway from the Big East was only the first step. It will be weeks and months of uncertainty, and possibly lawsuits, before the final structure over this transition period falls into place.

The seven schools must decide who will join them in the new hoops-heavy conference, when they want to depart, where they'll play a conference tournament, and whether they will attempt to keep the Big East name. Plus, the league will need a commissioner.

There is no true timetable for any of those decisions. Like so many of these reshaped conferences that stretch from coast to coast, this new league won't be confined to eastern teams. Xavier, Butler, Dayton, Creighton, and Gonzaga, way out in Spokane, Wash., also don't play major college football and would be natural fits to align with these Catholic schools. The league also will consider non-denominational schools, as well.

``They don't necessarily have to be Catholic, but it could happen,'' Patrick Lyons, Seton Hall's athletic director, said. ``We're not restricting it. We also have to consider our football-playing Big East partners and what they plan to do. But we're extremely excited about being able to shape our future.''

The seven departing schools have won three men's basketball national championships with 18 Final Four appearances. Georgetown, St. John's, Seton Hall and Providence helped form the Big East, which started playing basketball in 1979. Villanova joined in 1980, and Marquette and DePaul in 2005. The Big East began playing football in 1991.

``I just like the fact that our schools are being proactive and moving in a direction that I think will be just great,'' DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. ``I've always said DePaul will be fine because we'll be in a terrific basketball league and nothing's transpired in the last week or so that's changed my mind.''

For most of the schools, leaving is bittersweet, but it is a move necessitated by earlier defections like Syracuse (ACC), Pittsburgh (ACC) and West Virginia (Big 12), and the heavy emphasis on the cash-cow football programs.

``I think the tipping point in the mind of all seven of us was the most recent departure of Louisville and Rutgers,'' said Villanova's president, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue. ``There was a concern on all of our parts about where the conference was heading and where basketball was playing a part in the conference.''

Big East bylaws require departing members give the conference 27 months' notice, but the league has negotiated early departures with Orange, Panthers and Mountaineers over the past year. Those schools all had to pay exit fees. Big East rules do allow schools to leave as a group without being obligated to pay exit fees.

The seven schools could play one more year in the Big East or figure out a way to get started on their league a season early. No one wants to deal with the uncertainty and nastiness that can lead from a split for any more time than necessary.

The breakup, however, is almost guaranteed to get messy. The Big East name, after all, will be up for grabs in negotiations.

``The association has served us well, for sure,'' Villanova Athletic Director Vince Nicastro said. ``It's been part of the fabric of our programs. But we're looking forward.''

Villanova coach Jay Wright, a native of the area, and raised on the Big East, said the time was right for a change.

``All of us basketball schools (are now) able to get together and say, `OK, where are we going to go? How are we going to do this?''' he said. ``Not sit back and say, `Let's wait and see what the football schools decide, then let's see where we're going to go.'''

The latest hit to the Big East leaves Connecticut, also a founding member, Cincinnati, Temple and South Florida - the four current members with FBS football programs - as the only schools currently in the Big East that are scheduled to be there beyond the 2013-14 school year.

The Big East is still lined up to have a 12-team football conference next season with six new members, including Boise State and San Diego State for football only. Rutgers and Louisville, which both announced intentions to leave the Big East last month for the Big Ten and the ACC, respectively, are scheduled to compete in the conference next year.

Notre Dame, which is moving to the ACC, also is expected to continue competing in the Big East next season in all sports but football and hockey. Those two sports also won't compete in the ACC when the Fighting Irish land there.

Also joining the Big East next season are Memphis, Central Florida, Houston and SMU for all sports.

Villanova had toyed for years with moving its football program up from the FCS level. Obviously, those plans are finished.

``I'm pleased we didn't make that decision,'' Donohue said.

School officials haven't said much publicly because there are still so many pieces that need to come together. Will it be a 10 or 12-team league? What will the television deal look like? Will a conference tournament live on at Madison Square Garden?

``The commercial enterprise around this is going to be really important to us,'' Nicastro said. ``Make no mistake about that, we're in that game. We're going to be in the television business in a big way.''

Nicastro said the seven schools have only worked together in making the move but are starting to look outside for new leadership. The next step is simply getting organized in the transition plan.

About the only part of the defection the seven schools know for sure is that they're all unified as they journey onward.

``Right now, we're focused on moving forward together,'' Lyons said. ``All other decisions still have to be made, but we're going to stick together.''


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Paul Richardson's Redskins contract is team friendly early

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Paul Richardson's Redskins contract is team friendly early

The Redskins’ contract with wide receiver Paul Richardson is very team friendly in the first year but it increases over the years to the point where he needs to be a very productive receiver in order to justify staying on the roster.

The big picture of the deal is $40 million over five years. A total of $12.5 million is fully guaranteed at signing, which is comprised of a $10 million signing bonus, his $1.5 million 2018 salary, and $1 million of his $5 million 2019 salary.

More money will become guaranteed if Richardson is on the roster as of five days after the start of the league years in 2019 and 2020. The remaining $4 million of his 2019 salary and $3.5 million of his $6 million 2020 salary become guaranteed on those dates.


Richardson will get salaries of $7.5 million in 2021 and 2022. Each year of the contract he can earn $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses ($31,250 for each game he is on the 46-man game day roster).

It all adds up to the following salary cap numbers:

2018: $4 million
2019: $7.5 million
2020: $8.5 million
2021: $10 million
2022: $10 million

The average annual value of the contract is $8 million, which is tied for 24th among NFL receivers.

The first window the Redskins have to terminate Richardson’s contract without taking a negative cap hit would be in 2020 as long as they do it prior to the fifth day of the league year when the partial salary guarantee kicks in. They would take a $6 million deal cap hit but they would save a net of $2.5 million.

The last two years, when the cap numbers are at their highest, the Redskins could easily move on, saving $6 million in cap space in 2021 and $8 million in 2022.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen


John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen

One week ago, the hockey world was captivated by the matchup of Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, two players battling for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer. Tuesday's matchup between the Washington Capitals and Dallas Stars once again pitted two competitors locked in a point battle together in John Carlson and John Klingberg.

Carlson and Klingberg entered Tuesday's games with 59 points each, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. In a 4-3 win for Washington, both defensemen delivered phenomenal performances as each recorded two points, two assists for Klingberg and a goal and an assist for Carlson.

Tuesday's game was the latest example this season of Carlson rising to the occasion. He has been at his best when he has been needed the most such as when he was averaging 27:46 of ice time a night while Matt Niskanen was out injured.


Carlson's ability to deliver has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.

"John's having just a whale of a year, obviously," Niskanen said. "Monster year. Production, been carrying the load all year. He's been just a stalwart back there for us. He leads the way."

"The numbers don't lie, he's been having an unreal season," T.J. Oshie said. "Definitely on the points side of things, but maybe some parts that don't get talked about, the defensive side of things. He rarely loses a battle. It's very encouraging, it gets the bench going when he plays like that."

After the game, Carlson tried to downplay the notion that he elevated his game in response to playing against Klingberg.

"No," Carlson said when asked if he was motivated by the points race. "I think the guys do a good job of pumping that up in the locker room. I just want to go out there and win. I think we played a good game tonight so that's most important."

But while his words were subdued, his play was anything but.

Despite both players getting two points, Carlson got the better of his counterpart by scoring the game-winning goal in the third period, a one-timer slap shot to beat goalie Kari Lehtnonen, to lead Washington to the win.


Carlson may say he was not motivated by Klingberg, but his play certainly seemed to suggest otherwise.

"I think they both know, they know the stats," Barry Trotz said. "They know who they're lined up [against]. They're proud athletes. You're in a business where there's a lot of alpha males. That's what it is."

Of course, Carlson may not need a matchup with Klingberg to motivate him.

In the final year of his contract, Carlson has picked a good time to set new career highs in goals, assist and points. With a cap hit of just under $4 million, the 28-year-old blueliner will be due a significant raise in the offseason. That price tag continues to climb with every good performance as Carlson continues to cement himself among the league's top defensemen.

"Obviously he's very motivated," Trotz said. "He's in the last year of his contract. He'll be motivated. He's putting out points. He's gotten better and better. He's more poised every year. When he's intense and detailed in his game, he's a top defenseman in the league and he shows it."