As one might expect, the Big East expansion crisis has caused more than a few emails to be exchanged by conference officials. Brett McMurphy of CBSsports.com was able to get his hands on some of those documents. One of them was an email sent by John Marinatto, the Big East commissioner, to member institutions after meeting with the football school presidents in New York City shortly after the defections of Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
"The most important issue for us to focus on, however, is the future of the Conference and specifically how we can stabilize our situation in order to convey a level of comfort and security to any potential new members and provide them some assurances about their future with us. Toward this end and per our football school discussion (Sept. 21) in New York City, we have added a new agenda item to discuss a proposed bylaw amendment in the form of the attached regarding our current withdrawal clause."
That withdrawal clause has been a hot topic of debate for the football schools. According to McMurphy, the league's initial proposal was to raise the fees to "150 percent of the gross revenues received by a departing team in its final year in the league."
That number can vary, but estimates put that fee between $12 and $15 million for the football schools — not the most damaging of numbers if a school is heading off to a conference that will pay $20 million per year in television money. Nonetheless, the football schools have thus far refused to agree on an increased penalty.
They also reportedly discussed their "legal strategies" against Syracuse and Pittsburgh. We don't know what they decided, but a law suit or two could be filed before all is said and done.
Another possibility thrown out there is that the Big East could form two separate conferences, with separate commissioners, that cooperate closely under the same "umbrella."
According to the Star-Ledger's Tom Luicci:
In addition, the Big East’s long-term goal is to create two separate leagues under one umbrella, with the 12 football schools having a separate commissioner from the eight basketball schools.
The sides would offer a united front during all future TV negotiations.
Long-term goals being set by a league that reportedly can't even agree on whether they want to invite Boise State to play football? Seems unlikely. Remember that nothing reported as "imminent" by these Big East sources has actually happened yet. Things are still fluid in the Big East at the moment.
Under the umbrella, presumably, the two leagues would schedule basketball and (some) non-revenue sports together in order to maintain rivalries. This may or may not mean two separate basketball tournaments or two regular season champions. It could be a big umbrella or a small one.
Or no umbrella at all. . .