The Big Catholic Mostly East Conference

Jonathan Mahler is a sports columnist for Bloomberg View. He is the author of the best-selling "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning," the basis for the eight-part ESPN mini-series. He also wrote "The Challenge," the winner of the 2009 Scribes Book Award, and "Death Comes to Happy Valley."
Read More.
a | A

Everything must go!

The Big East is reportedly considering selling its name to the seven schools that are leaving the conference, the so-called Catholic 7: Seton Hall, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Villanova, Providence and St. John's.

This makes perfect sense. Metaphorically speaking, the Big East is in foreclosure. Its only remaining asset is the University of Connecticut basketball program, and it certainly won't be sticking around much longer.

What's less clear is why the Catholic 7 would be interested in buying such a devalued brand.

What happened?

The easy explanation is greed. It was greed that prompted the Big East, which was formed as a basketball conference in 1979, to get into football in 1991 -- a decision that set off years of internal warfare between its revenue-generating football-centric schools and its prestige-generating basketball-centric schools.

It was greed that prevented the Big East from abandoning football and returning to its core business of basketball, even as it struggled to retain enough football-playing members to keep its BCS bid.

And it was greed that motivated the Big East to reject the lifeline that ESPN offered in 2011: a nine-year, $1.17 billion deal that would have netted full members $13.8 million a season, and basketball-only members $2.5 million.

The Big East thought it could do better. It couldn't. And now the Catholic 7, none of which has a big-time football program, are leaving to start their own conference. The only question is who else is going to join them. Butler? Xavier?

Oh, and what will they call their conference. If they want a name that's synonymous with infighting, instability and bad management, Big East is now apparently available.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.