Since the Catholic 7 made the announcement that they would form a new conference to focus on elite basketball as its primary product, the speculation on potential membership has been rampant. Xavier and Butler have been considered sure-things, but what, if anything are the criteria?
A recent report from the Philadelphia Inquirer's Mike Jensen suggests that the Catholic 7 are pretty open on who they include.
I heard last week that someone representing the C-7 schools approached somebody at Memphis to gauge if that school had interest in joining their league. (The answer, I was told, was a quick "no.") Both sides of that make sense. Why shouldn't the C-7 try to put together the best basketball league it can? But Memphis also knows that football is ultimately the biggest moneymaker, and staying with Temple and others is the obvious play.
The new conference will not rule out membership for schools with FBS football programs, apparently, and the schools involved seem to have explored that option.
A conference that adds Xavier and Butler to the Big East's breakaway hoops conference would be a start, but perhaps not a true power conference in basketball. After those two possibilities, it appears that the C7 schools aren't entirely enamored with their options -- better to form a 12-team league with Memphis, Cincy or UConn than Dayton, SLU or Richmond, it seems.
Though, at least as far as UConn and Cincy are concerned, Jensen does not believe the C7 has reached out to either of the ACC hopefuls.
The problem, however, is that the basketball powers that play FBS are shooting them down. Word on the grapevine is that Memphis was unwilling to split its two main sports of Football and Basketball into separate leagues. UConn and Cincinnati would both prefer a new home for their programs, but an all-sports solution with greater access to the football postseason will remain a preference for those athletic departments.
Maybe thinking could change, but at the moment, before entertaining the Catholic 7 overtures, these programs have to answer the question of, "what do we do with football?"
There is no obvious answer to that question.
So what direction would the Catholic 7 go in? They need to maximize their television value, but perhaps just as importantly, the new league needs to import schools that will boost their league's RPI firepower and help launch teams into NCAA Tournament bids. Butler and Xavier should help with that goal, but weak links at the bottom of the C7 need to be reinforced with more basketball power at the top for the league to build a powerful brand in the American sports psyche.