It still may not be clear how the Big East plans to handle the exit fees of the departing Catholic members, that matter will be determined by the bylaws and agreements that govern the situation as well as the school's proposed timeline for exit (27 months or sooner?). Those logistics are still being looked into by the schools, their attorneys and the conference office, with discussions from Friday continuing into a teleconference this morning, according to the Providence Journal.
"It's one thing to say you are leaving," a person familiar with the talks told the USA Today, "but the devil is in the details. They (the Catholic schools) did this, but I'm not sure if they have any idea of all the work that is involved in making it work. Right now, the Big East doesn't have a television contract for basketball for next season."
The ProJo expanded on a previous report by the Philadelphia Inquirer's Mike Jensen, explaining that a "departure document" exist that purports to allow the Big East's basketball schools to exit the conference as a group without paying an exit fee -- with 27 months notice. The name "Big East," would default to the football side, but the basketball group can negotiate to keep it. It isn't clear how a departure document created in 2005 could supersede the conference bylaws, however, and there should be some questions as to that document's validity and ability to be considered legally-binding.
The goal is to begin the new conference play in the 2014-15 season, though it could take longer.
There are questions over whether the seven Catholic universities will have a right to claim some of the pot of exit fee money, which won't be fully paid until June. That amount would be anywhere from 40 to 60 million dollars, and perhaps more. The league has already collected some of those fees, but hasn't distributed them, and withdrawing members forfeit their rights to claim a share of those.
Of course, the Catholic schools would like to get a share of those fees, which are substantial and will help them kickstart themselves going into their new venture.
According to a USA Today report, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco is working to negotiate a plan that would distribute $20 million in exit fees already paid to the conference to all 10 active, full members. That would give each school a quick $2 million boost. The remaining balance of exit fees which the league has yet to collect, may or may not be reachable by the basketball schools.
Another issue that these school will face is what sort of television contract the Big East will have next season — in which they are still slated to play in the league. Mike Aresco is still working on landing a television contract for the conference, but the league has no TV contracts in place for next year, so they will need to hope that Aresco can land something despite his unknown league membership. Exposure could be limited next season for the hoops schools.
The ProJo report notes that television revenue is a concern that might limit the league to just 10 members, unless they felt the value of expanding to 12 is good enough to warrant it. Xavier is essentially a lock to be invited, and Butler isn't far behind after two consecutive NCAA title game appearances. There has apparently been some debate on a third invitee, with Dayton, St. Louis, Richmond, VCU and Creighton have all been mentioned by various media outlets. St. Louis has the largest TV market in that group, but Richmond and VCU are in a fast-growing state and Creighton has had excellent attendance and basketball success.
Gonzaga has also been tossed around in the media, but no reports seem to indicate that the Catholic Seven have seriously considered a West Coast move.
Once the league membership is finalized (or close), they will need to appoint a commissioner and seek a television contract of their own. Until then, the amounts that the league could earn will be a matter of estimate and speculation. They will also have to pick a location for a headquarters, which would likely be on the east coast and could be in any current C7 city, with some rumblings that it could be in New York.
The new league will try to keep Madison Square Garden around for it's conference tournament, but that may not be possible. It will depend on a number of factors, including wherever the MSG organization believes the money will be stronger. If that fails, they might be expected to have rotating tournament sites in the short-term.
Possibly the biggest winner of the move at Villanova would be the women's basketball program, which will no longer need to beat UConn, Rutgers, Louisville and others to built an NCAA Tournament resume. Harry Peretta's program will still face competition to get there. The NCAA may also need to expand the Women's tournament from 64 teams in order to accommodate the new conference's automatic bid, which may make at-large bids slightly more available.