Report: Catholic 7 to start play in 2014

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Next season will likely be the last one for the Big East Catholic school's association with the Big East conference, according to an ESPN report.

The Big East is reportedly close to a deal to allow the seven Catholic and non-FBS members to separate from the organization earlier than their contractually-obligated 27-month requirement. Under the currently amended bylaws, they would each owe an exit fee of around $10 million, but that amount may not be what is actually paid by the schools if they leave the conference earlier.

Commissioner Mike Aresco said that the remaining football schools want to keep the Big East name, while speaking at an event in Middletown, Connecticut. That name may have enough value to them that they would be willing to budge on exit fees for the basketball schools. The Catholic 7 reportedly have also staked a claim to that name, but unless that brand is of tremendous value to a potential TV partner, it may be easier to let it go.

The conference has a history of allowing early exits to withdrawing members and it is somewhat powerless to stop a school like West Virginia from bolting on short notice. The C7 are not in as much of a hurry as the mountaineers, but would likely want to start their new league sooner than later and have a date-certain for their launch.

Aresco also told reporters that the FBS Big East was looking to add at least one more school to get back to 12 members for future seasons.

The separation of the FBS schools and Catholic-7 has been described by Aresco as "amicable," and the commissioner expects that many games could be arranged to be played between the old rivals in non-conference play -- which will be an area of emphasis for both leagues going forward.

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