Big East breakup picks up speed
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By RALPH D. RUSSO
NEW YORK (AP) The breakup of the Big East's football and basketball schools appears to be on the fast track.
The major college football members will meet in Atlanta on Friday to discuss the departure of the seven basketball schools that are planning to leave the conference and create a new league.
According to media reports Thursday, the basketball schools plan to have their new conference up and running for the 2013-14 school year and will pay the football schools to keep the Big East name and play its conference tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco told the AP in a phone interview no deal has been completed between the two groups but "some of this stuff is clearly coming down to the wire."
Aresco will be meeting with the presidents and athletic directors from the football members. The members that do not have FBS football programs will not be part of the meeting.
The seven Catholic schools that are breaking away from the football part of the rebuilt Big East include some of its founding members and signature schools, such as Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova. The other departing schools are Seton Hall, Providence, DePaul and Marquette.
Big East football is in the midst of a major makeover, with 2013 scheduled to be another season with lame duck members.
Next year, Big East football will have holdovers Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida, Temple, Rutgers and Louisville, along with newcomers Central Florida, Memphis, Houston and SMU.
In 2014, Louisville and Rutgers are likely on the way out - the Cardinals to the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Scarlet Knights to the Big Ten - and Tulane and East Carolina will join. Navy is schedule to join the Big East for football in 2015, and the conference is looking to add another member - Tulsa is the front-runner - to get to an even 12.
The Big East is also putting the finishing touches on a new TV deal with ESPN.
The network last week matched an offer made by NBC for the TV rights to the conference. The deal will be for seven years and pay the league about $130 million, though that figure would come down if the seven Catholic schools are not in the league next season.
It had been presumed that the seven basketball schools would stay in the current Big East for another year, because time is getting tight to start a new conference. But with a TV deal reportedly waiting for them, it seems they're ready to ramp up the process.
The seven basketball schools reportedly have an offer from Fox to broadcast its games that could earn the schools about $3 million per year, depending on how many more members they bring on. Butler, Xavier and Creighton are being talked about as potential targets.
A faster-than-expected divorce between Big East football and basketball puts Notre Dame in an uncertain situation.
The Fighting Irish have announced they will leave the Big East and join the ACC in everything but football and hockey, but no timetable has been set for their departure.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick has said that he expected the Irish to stay in the Big East through next season. But what does that mean if the Big East is now the basketball-only schools?
A phone message left for Swarbrick was not immediately returned Thursday night.
Updated February 28, 2013