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Big East Reaches Exit Agreement With Seven Basketball Schools

The Big East Conference reached an exit agreement with St. John’s University and six other schools whose top sports program is men’s basketball, clearing the way for them to start a new league and take the conference name next season.

The deal with St. John’s, DePaul University, Georgetown University, Marquette University, Providence College, Seton Hall University and Villanova University will allow the so-called Catholic 7 to retain the Big East name and continue to play their league championship tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The schools’ exit from the current Big East takes effect on June 30 and they’ll begin their new conference on July 1. The 10 schools that remain in the Big East as it’s currently constituted have to come up with a new league name by July 1. Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement that no new conference title had been chosen “and there are no favorites.”

The leading candidate is the America 12 Conference, ESPN reported, citing unidentified people.

The breakaway schools must still appoint a commissioner and negotiate a television contract. News Corp. (NWSA)’s Fox, which plans to start Fox Sports 1 in August, has offered more than $500 million for a 12-year deal, ESPN said on March 1, citing unidentified people.

The current Big East recently renewed its TV deal with Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN after considering an offer from Comcast Corp.’s NBC Sports Network.

Football Schools

The Associated Press reported two days ago that the Big East’s football schools will get $100 million under the agreement, with most of that going to the University of Connecticut, the University of South Florida and the University of Cincinnati.

The league collected about $110 million in recent years through exit and entry fees from schools leaving and joining the conference in what has become a nationwide realignment of college sports, and money from member appearances in the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament.

The seven outgoing schools will get about $10 million from that pool along with the right to the Big East name and the Madison Square Garden postseason tournament, AP said.

DePaul, from Chicago; Georgetown, from Washington; Marquette, from Milwaukee; Providence, from Providence, Rhode Island; Seton Hall, from South Orange, New Jersey; St. John’s, from Jamaica in the New York City borough of Queens; and Villanova, from Villanova, Pennsylvania, probably will add other schools.

Additional Members

Butler University from Indianapolis, Xavier University from Cincinnati and Creighton University from Omaha, Nebraska, probably will join to create a 10-team basketball league for the 2013-14 season, ESPN said, citing unidentified people familiar with the situation. The University of Dayton in Ohio and Saint Louis University in Missouri may expand the league to 12 teams for the 2014-15 season, ESPN said.

Staying with Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida are East Carolina University, the University of Houston, the University of Memphis, Southern Methodist University, Temple University, Tulane University and the University of Central Florida. Navy is set to join the league in 2015, with the University of Tulsa a candidate to become the conference’s 12th member during the 2014 or 2015 season, ESPN reported.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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