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CYO Conference Coming?

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Today, Vince Nicastro will meet with the athletics directors from the seven other Big East Catholic schools via teleconference to discuss the state of the conference and their prospects for survival. According to Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News, some schools may intend to propose that the catholic members break off from the remnants of the Big East to form a basketball-centric conference.

The major hold-up in any decision to form a new hoops-only conference is the realization that an all-Catholic Big East may not be able to obtain a similar television revenue distribution and exposure without the football members. That would make the CYO conference highly-dependent on the cooperation of Television networks like ESPN. As much clout as Villanova, Georgetown, Marquette and Notre Dame may have on television, ESPN and others will miss the matchups with Pittsburgh and Syracuse more than they lust over Villanova/Georgetown.

According to the New York Post, the next move for the ACC could come before the first basketball practices next month, and some sources have suggested that it would be Rutgers and UConn heading to the conference. The ACC won't rush to add two more, however, and they want to explore their options with Texas (who appear to be leaning toward going west with Oklahoma now) and Notre Dame.

Notre Dame may now feel like it has been pushed closer to dropping football independence now. If the Big East collapses as a hybrid, the Irish will no longer have a home for their other sports. By joining up with the CYO league, they would lose considerable influence on football issues; at the moment, they use the Big East to discuss NCAA Football issues and to vote on NCAA legislation. They also benefit from mutual bowl game arrangements with the Big East. Losing their hybrid conference means a negative effect on Notre Dame football that would force them to operate more like Army, Navy and BYU, unless they were to break down and join a conference.

Notre Dame has long been thought by pundits to lean towards the Big Ten if they were to join a conference. Of their regular rivalry games, the Irish play a number of Big Ten schools, like Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State. The Big Ten is also a good geographic fit for Notre Dame.

The ACC isn't completely out of it, however, because they have one thing the Big Ten doesn't: another Catholic school. Notre Dame's association with the Big East was at least partially driven by the association with the Catholic schools in the conference. They still maintain a good relationship with Boston College as well, and play against them often on the football field. The ACC has the only other Catholic university playing big time college football and that is a factor the Irish will certainly consider.

As for Villanova, they are another school that won't necessarily consider the all-Catholic conference their first option. The Nova administration has invested a lot of money in athletics in recent years and will hope to land in the best position possible to protect that investment. The only question is: what is that best position?