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The seven schools referred to as the Catholic 7 are "expected to start their own league next season and will keep the Big East Conference name," with Xavier and Butler expected to join the new conference this fall, according to sources cited by McMurphy, Katz & O'Neil of ESPN.com. Sources said that Creighton has "emerged as the favorite to become the 10th team, and would also join next season." Xavier and Butler have not "formally withdrawn from the Atlantic 10," and it would cost each school $2M to exit "with less than a year's notice." The Catholic 7's split from the football-playing Big East schools is "being expedited" by Fox, which is "expected to announce the addition of the ... basketball league Tuesday in New York as part of the network's news conference announcing the addition of Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 channels." Sources said that Fox' deal with the Catholic 7 is "expected to be worth "at least $3M annually per school. It is "unknown how much it will cost the Catholic 7 to keep the Big East name." Sources added that Notre Dame had "planned on remaining in the Big East for the 2013-14 academic year as long as the Catholic 7 schools did so." However, if those schools "left before then, the Fighting Irish would also look to join the ACC this summer." A source said that if Notre Dame is unable to join the ACC in '13-14, it would "consider spending one season in the Catholic 7 league before moving to the ACC in 2014" (ESPN.com, 2/28). A source said it is "fully expected" the Catholic 7's conference tournament will be held at MSG. The tournament issue was "resolved relatively early in the process" (NEWSDAY, 3/1).
EXIT WOUNDS: SI.com's Pete Thamel reported presidents of the Big East's football schools are "scheduled to meet on Friday where they're expected to sign off on selling the Big East name to the Catholic Seven and finalize the exit fees." The football schools are "expected to keep nearly all of the exit fees the league earned from its spree of attrition and the leftover NCAA units from the departure of schools such as Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Syracuse." The new basketball league will "eventually expand to 12 teams in the next few years, with Creighton, Dayton and Saint Louis expected to fill in the final three slots." Thamel wrote no one wants the league "to start next year more than Fox, as the batch of original sports programing would be critical to its lineup" (SI.com, 2/28).
AN IRISH WAKE: In Chicago, Brian Hamilton writes Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick had been "girding for weeks" for the possibility of the Catholic 7 schools breaking off for '13-14, "but the news Thursday almost officially created an all-options-open stance." Notre Dame men's basketball coach Mike Brey said, "If it's official those schools are leaving, we're going to have to make a decision on where we're going to be and what we're going to do, and it's going to have to be fast." Hamilton notes there was some thought among Notre Dame officials that if scheduling issues "could be navigated, the school indeed would land in the ACC for next season." The ACC's stance "all along has been, essentially, we're ready to welcome Notre Dame when Notre Dame is ready" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/1). Notre Dame women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw said, "I would definitely push for joining the ACC early. It leaves us in limbo. I’m not sure where our home is right now." Brey said that Notre Dame "originally felt good about staying in Big East for 2013-14 as long as Catholic 7 stayed." Brey: "Now the game has really changed" (SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, 3/1).
BUTLER MADE ME DO IT: The INDIANAPOLIS STAR notes joining the new conference, with its "expected additional revenue, could help Butler in various ways." It would "help everything" from the $25M Hinkle Fieldhouse renovation to Butler’s "long-term goal of expanding undergraduate enrollment from 4,000 to 5,000." It could "allow Butler to address Title IX compliance by funding men’s scholarships or new women’s teams." The school has "said very little publicly about the move." Butler President James Danko in December acknowledged that there was "interest in Butler joining the new league" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/1). In Indianapolis, David Woods wrote if Butler were to "create a league from scratch, this would be it." Woods: "When it is done, Butler should be forever changed, and not just in basketball or athletics." The A-10 has "supplied Butler access to the East for graduates seeking jobs and student recruitment." The Big East "offers all that, plus significantly more than the reported $400,000 a year A-10 schools receive from TV rights" (INDYSTAR.com, 2/28).
WHAT'S IN A BRAND? In Hartford, Paul Doyle notes the Big East brand "seemingly would be a recruiting tool for basketball and football coaches, based on the history of the conference." Cincinnati men's basketball coach Mick Cronin said that players "aren't naive about conference realignment and most understand that future leagues -- whatever they are called -- will have little in common with the Big East of the past." Brey believes that the non-football schools "seem more aligned with what the Big East name represents" (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/1). ESPN.com's Kristi Dosh wrote although we "don’t know yet what the Catholic 7 will give up to get the name, we do know keeping the name is a big win for the basketball schools." LHB Sports, Media & Entertainment President & CEO Lee Berke said, "(The Big East name) has been associated primarily with basketball. That’s where the name really developed, through big name college basketball. It makes sense the basketball conference developing would want to use that, particularly with a number of schools still located in the northeastern U.S." He added that in the end, it is the basketball schools that would have "had the most to lose in the name game" (ESPN.com, 2/28).
ONE LAST GO-ROUND: SportsNet N.Y.’s Eamon McAnaney said this year’s Big East Tournament is “going to be the hottest ticket this town has seen in forever,” as it will be the last time Syracuse will play in the tournament and “who knows what’s going to happen with the Catholic 7” (“The Wheelhouse,” SportsNet N.Y., 2/28).
Univ. of South Carolina AD Ray Tanner said that the school is raising football season-ticket prices by $45 this season to help "pay for new facilities," according to Andrew Shain of the Columbia STATE. Tanner said he "expects some fan backlash" from the price increase, the first since '08. But at $365, South Carolina's season-ticket prices still rank "in the middle" of the SEC. The new prices will add more than $2M per year to the school's "athletic coffers." The additional money will "help pay part of the cost" of more than $50M in new facilities, including "new football practice facilities and a plaza" around Williams-Brice Stadium. Tanner: "It's an investment back into our student-athletes, and (giving) them the projects and resources to compete at the highest level." Shain notes South Carolina fans have "not come back to Williams-Brice Stadium in the same numbers since the Gamecocks started charging an annual fee of up to $395 per seat." Season-ticket sales in '12 surpassed 49,000 for the first time since the school "started charging the seat fee" in '09. But sales "remain below the 59,600 sold in the final year before the fee was instituted" (Columbia STATE, 3/1).
BLACKSBURG SINGING IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT: In Virginia, David Teel noted Virginia Tech's run of 11 straight years of hosting at least one Thursday night game will end this season "at athletic director Jim Weaver's request to the ACC and ESPN." Weaver said, "Thursday nights have been great for us. But it just wasn't fair to have a game every year where so many fans couldn't come and had to sell their tickets." Teel noted the move "was not a case of ESPN or the ACC bypassing Tech after its 7-6 season last year." Weaver: "It was simply a request on behalf of our fans, something I thought we needed to do to say 'thank you' to them for being so good to us on Thursday nights over the years." He added that the "logistical challenges of clearing campus early for weekday home games played no role in the decision." The request was for '13 "only." Weaver: "I think we'll have a home Thursday night game next year" (DAILYPRESS.com, 2/26). Weaver in making the decision "didn't solicit input from athletic department officials or survey firms." He said that he "received only a handful of letters or emails from fans complaining about the number of non-Saturday games" (ROANOKE.com, 2/26).