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AP Source: Basketball schools to cut from Big East

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AP Source: Basketball schools to cut from Big East

NEW YORK (AP) The Big East is headed for another break up. This time, the seven prominent basketball schools that don't play FBS football are planning to cut ties with the ever-changing conference.

The divorce is expected to be complicated, maybe even contentious, with millions of dollars and possibly the future of the league at stake.

The Big East's non-football members decided Thursday to separate from the conference, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because officials from those schools are still sorting through details and trying to figure how best to split from the conference. No official announcement was imminent, the person said.

The seven schools that don't play FBS-level football are St. John's, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Seton Hall, Providence and Villanova. Officials at those schools have concerns about the direction of the conference and feel as if they have little power to influence it.

Commissioner Mike Aresco conferred by phone with the leaders of those seven schools earlier in the day, according to another person familiar with the situation, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

``Clearly there is a movement by the presidents to explore and look into the various possibilities when it comes to this conference realignment,'' St. John's basketball coach Steve Lavin said. ``Their objective is to look out for the best interests of the original remaining Big East members and those presidents have met and had dialogue to chart the best course.''

The current Big East football membership includes only four schools - South Florida, Connecticut and Cincinnati, Temple - that are committed to the league beyond 2013. But there are 11 schools with plans to join the Big East in the next three years, including Boise State and San Diego State for football only in 2013.

Because those schools won't be members until next summer, the majority of the voting members of the Big East are basketball schools right now. Still, those schools aren't in position to dissolve the conference. That would take the votes of at least two football members, according to the Big East bylaws.

The Catholic schools can leave without financial penalty. The Big East has provisions in its bylaws that allow a group of schools to leave without exit fees.

But what they would do remains unclear, as are the legal ramifications of their actions. There has been speculation those seven basketball schools could merge with the Atlantic 10 or possibly add schools from that league to create a basketball-only conference of smaller Catholic schools.

One of the many things that will need to be sorted out is who owns the rights to the name Big East. Will it stay with new members or go with the old. Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall and St John's were among the original members of the conference when it was formed primarily for basketball in 1979. Villanova came in a year later. Marquette and DePaul came in 2005, the Big East's previous major expansion.

Most importantly there are of millions dollars that both sides will likely claim at least some ownership of, including NCAA tournament money that is paid out every five years based on appearances, about $70 million in exit fees the Big East has collected from the recent departures and future possible exit fees from the latest members to announce they are leaving - Rutgers and Louisville.

Where does that leave the current and future football-playing members? They could simply stick together and continue on the path they are headed. But if the basketball side of the Big East is weakened it could decrease the value of the conference to television networks. The league is currently trying to negotiate a crucial TV contract, but instability has made it impossible.

The Big East had been hoping to sign a TV deal that could bring in as much as $100 million a year to its members, though some estimates have been a low as $60 million. If the TV money isn't up to the Big East's projections, the speculation has been that it could cause Boise State, San Diego State and Navy, which is scheduled to join as a football-only member in 2015, to reconsider.

The Mountain West and Conference USA have already lined up replacement members for the schools that have pledged to go to the Big East. Boise State and San Diego State would likely be able to slide right back into the Mountain West, but there appears to be no turning back for the seven current C-USA schools bound for the Big East.

Memphis released a statement from athletic director Tom Bowen in response to ``Big East rumors,'' which was essentially a no comment.

All of those schools, even though they have not participated in the Big East, could be on the hook for exit fees to the conference if they did change plans. Or not. At this point, everything is up for debate - or litigation.

The Big East's long-term plan has been to form a 12- to 14-team football conference that spans coast to coast, starting next year, while also having a large basketball league with many of its traditional members.

But the most recent defections of Louisville and Rutgers, along with the additions of Tulane for all sports and East Carolina for football only in 2014, have convinced the basketball schools that it's not worth sticking with the plan.

Conference realignment has whittled away the Big East, costing it many of its oldest and most prominent members in the last 16 months. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are going to the Atlantic Coast Conference next year. West Virginia has moved to the Big 12. Louisville is headed to the ACC and Rutgers to the Big Ten, maybe as soon as 2014.

Money doesn't seem to be driving the basketball schools away. The Big East non-football members currently get about $1.6 million from the league's television deals, and that share goes up to about $3.5 million when NCAA basketball tournament money is included. The football members make about $6 million currently.

Even if the Big East doesn't reach its goals with a new TV contract, the Big East basketball schools are not likely to earn much more on their own. Though the difference between what they get without the football schools and what they get with them might be small enough to justify leaving them behind and taking control back of their programs.

``When you look at the various outcomes, there is still going to be the Big East and the remaining schools are going to shape the best possible future for us,'' Lavin said. ``I'm looking forward to knowing what that direction is and what direction we are going to take.''

That's a sentiment shared by many.

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AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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How can Ron Rivera and the Redskins become contenders? Mike Rizzo gives his advice

How can Ron Rivera and the Redskins become contenders? Mike Rizzo gives his advice

If a college offered a How to Build a D.C. Team Into a Champion class, Mike Rizzo would be an apt choice to lead the course.

Rizzo has been a top executive with the Nationals since 2009, when he assumed the role of general manager. He's overseen Washington's rise from NL East fodder to NL East contender to, of course, now World Series winners. 

The process was arduous, but Rizzo was steadfast in his approach through it all and was committed to sticking to his values and his roster. He was the perfect leader to help elevate the Nats to the top of baseball, and he's also the perfect person to give advice to Ron Rivera and the Redskins as they try to make the same climb in football.

So, the Redskins Talk podcast searched for that kind of advice on Wednesday when Rizzo sat down with them in Miami at Super Bowl LIV.

Rizzo, who's actually already fond of Rivera since Rivera played for Rizzo's beloved Bears, looked back on the early days of his rebuild with the Nationals, stressing the importance of having a vision.

"It's very difficult. It's more difficult towards the fan base," Rizzo explained. "With them, we were honest and up front and kind of mapped out what our blueprint was for how we were going to develop this thing... From that day on we had a blueprint and a plan of how to do this. When I took over as GM in 2009, we started implementing the plan."

It seems as if Rivera is being allowed to begin his tenure in a similar way. The two-time Coach of the Year is the key component in what Dan Snyder has called a "coach-centric" structure, and so far, Rivera has brought in plenty of new figures at all levels of the organization. He'll likely do the same when free agency and the draft come and go.

That's just the beginning, obviously, which Rizzo discussed. It's rare for a franchise to flip its fortunes in a flash, especially when they're in bad as shape as the Curly Ws once were or the Burgundy and Gold currently is. But growth should happen, and that growth will hopefully lead to an eventual explosion.

"We saw small increments of improvement," Rizzo told Redskins Talk. "We went from 59 wins to 69 wins. From 69 wins to 80 wins. And then we went on our big runs."

Rivera is taking over a group that just went 3-13, and while there's plenty of optimism for what he can do, the progress may initially be slow. Six victories in 2020, for example, won't result in a playoff berth but would represent quite a jump. Yet even with what could be an uninspiring record in Rivera's debut season, there may be some vital developing going on.

"It happens most powerfully in places that nobody sees," Rizzo said. "It's down at the grassroots."

In the end, Rizzo has emerged from the Nationals' ascension understanding that making a team into a legitimate force is insanely difficult. However, the task becomes more doable if there's patience and unity between the people calling the shots. 

Essentially, in that hypothetical How to Build a D.C. Team Into a Champion class, the following quote from Rizzo would be the principle takeaway.

"Sometimes you have hiccups and take steps sideways or even take steps backwards," he said. "Ownership better be on board, you better have their support, they better have the blueprint in front of them and believe in the dream. And you better have the personnel in the front office and the decision-makers to make sometimes scary decisions. You can't be afraid to make big decisions and bold decisions to accomplish big things."

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There’s a Harper in DC again: Nationals trade for reliever Ryne Harper

There’s a Harper in DC again: Nationals trade for reliever Ryne Harper

It may have taken until Jan. 29, but the Nationals finally made their first trade of the offseason Wednesday when they acquired right-hander reliever Ryne Harper from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for 21-year-old pitching prospect Hunter McMahon.

Of course, he won’t be the first Harper to don the Curly W. He’ll have a lot of work to do if he wants to top the legacy of the former MVP now playing in Philadelphia.

Putting that aside, he’s joining the Nationals coming off a solid rookie season in which he posted a 3.81 ERA with one save and 12 holds in 61 appearances for Minnesota.

At 30 years old, Harper will certainly be a bit seasoned for a second-year player. Per Brooks Baseball, his fastball averaged out at 89.7 mph while he also mixed in healthy usage of a slider and curveball. He isn’t a big strikeout pitcher (8.3 K/9), allowing mostly grounders (38.5 percent) and flyballs (37.3 percent).

Harper was designated for assignment by the Twins to make room for Josh Donaldson on the 40-man roster. Washington was among the suitors for Donaldson; although they didn’t end up signing him, the third baseman still managed to make an impact that affected the Nationals.

McMahon was a ninth-round pick out of last year’s draft who posted a 0.71 ERA over nine appearances last season between rookie ball and Low-A Auburn.

Washington figures to give Harper a chance to compete for a bullpen spot in spring training, joining a crowded group that only has three pitchers guaranteed spots heading into the year: Sean Doolittle, Will Harris and Daniel Hudson.

After the Nationals made the trade official Wednesday, their 40-man roster is now officially full. For fans still holding out hope that Kris Bryant could be going to D.C., this trade only lowers those odds even further after Bryant lost his service-time grievance with the Chicago Cubs.

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