BCS Exec Dir Bill Hancock yesterday reiterated that the title of college football’s new championship game set to begin in '14 “will not include a sponsor,” according to Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com. Hancock: "The Final Four doesn't have one. The Masters doesn't. The Super Bowl. That's the kind of event we have." He added that conference commissioners and college administrators overseeing the format “expect to unveil its name and logo at their meeting in Pasadena, Calif., next month.” Hancock said that the group has narrowed the candidates for the name to a "small number." He added that the decision to forgo a title sponsor “will not affect the bowls that host the semifinal games.” Hancock: "The semifinals will have something to the effect of 'The Football Tournament Semifinal at the Discover Orange Bowl’” (ESPN.com, 3/12). CBSSPORTS.com’s Chip Patterson wrote, “We can likely expect the name of the new college football playoff to be far from flashy. Something like ‘Football Championship Tournament’ or ‘National College Football Championship’ would not be a surprise.” The lack of a title sponsor “gives the playoff an ‘authentic’ feel that many fans believe was stripped from existing bowls.” There are “still fans who refuse to make the transition from ‘Peach Bowl’ or ‘Citrus Bowl,’ so at least that aspect of this big-money operation is spared.” The decision also “allows the presidents to keep their options open when it comes to sponsors for the event” (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/12).
The Univ. of Notre Dame yesterday announced an agreement with the Big East to "quicken its defection" to the ACC in all sports except football and hockey beginning with the '13-14 school year, according to Zach Schonbrun of the N.Y. TIMES. The move “allows Notre Dame to enter the ACC at the same time as Syracuse and Pittsburgh, giving the conference 15 basketball teams for next season.” Notre Dame’s $2.5M exit fee reportedly “will be waived by the Big East because the university agreed not to seek any piece of the exit and entrance fee revenue accrued over the years.” Notre Dame originally “could not leave the conference without penalty before 2015, but it was widely expected that it would defect regardless” (NYTIMES.com, 3/12). In Chicago, Brian Hamilton wrote Notre Dame’s path to the ACC was "as expeditious and trouble-free as the school expected.” A source said that the school's separation deal is, "for all intents, under the same terms as the Catholic 7 split agreement.” Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said, “From both parties’ perspectives, there was (urgency). ... Part of it was just pretty clearly everybody understood a template now existed.” (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 3/12).
DOLLARS & SENSE: The TRIBUNE's Hamilton writes for “all the hairpin turns and detours” that followed Notre Dame's September announcement it would join the ACC, “maybe the most stunning swerve came at the end: What made the most sense in college athletics actually happened.” Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey said, "It's been a distraction. I'm glad we have an answer and can plan accordingly." Hamilton writes the move is a “boon for just about every Irish program, from the higher-profile basketball teams to soccer, baseball and lacrosse.” Swarbrick said, "In so many ways, it's optimal for us.” Notre Dame “paid no exit fee, per se, but agreed to claim a relatively small share of the Big East's cash reserves -- one source put it at $1 million -- while the football schools retained the bulk of that pool.” Hamilton: “Whatever the price, it was a necessary one to pay for the health of the department” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/13). Swarbrick in a statement said, “From the time of our decision to join the ACC we have stressed our commitment to ensuring that our departure was achieved in a collegial manner. This agreement realizes that intention” (NJ.com, 3/12).
LET'S GO BOWLING: ESPN.com’s Matt Fortuna wrote Notre Dame’s move “will have little impact on football this fall.” The school had “two bowl partnerships that lasted through this fall, one of which, the Champs Sports Bowl, had a one-in-every-four-years Big East replacement clause for Notre Dame, which the Irish used up in 2011 by playing Florida State there.” Notre Dame "has to make a BCS-bowl game this season or essentially become a free agent replacement for a conference that does not fill its bowl slots.” The New Era Pinstripe Bowl “can take Notre Dame if the Big 12 cannot fill its slots” (ESPN.com, 3/12).
Univ. of Central Florida AD Todd Stansbury yesterday said that despite reports of in-fighting between football schools in the Big East, there "have been no discussions about the finances of the new, yet-to-be-named conference," according to Paul Tenorio of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. He added that the group "will not meet until next week to begin sorting through the new leagues finances." Stansbury: "You've got schools that are coming in at different times, so there are still a lot of moving parts that need to be discussed and vetted. I know everyone is talking about a set dollar figure, but it's a lot more complex than that because it's not like at the end of all this we're going to have $100 million sitting in a bank account somewhere." Stansbury is "part of a six-member panel that will decide how to split exit fees, NCAA Tournament credits and reserve funds left behind by defecting members." The new conference agreed to a TV contract with ESPN "far short of what the school expected." Stansbury said that the contract "could not be signed until the Catholic 7 and Notre Dame departures were completed." He said, "We all would have liked a lot more money. But given where we are, it's better than where we have been in the past." Meanwhile, Stansbury "chuckled at the fallout" after the name "America 12" was reported as the new conference name. He said there had been a discussion "including some creative and some not-so-creative ideas from various ADs and presidents," but that it was "blue sky thinking." Stansbury said that the Big East has "hired a public relations firm, Ketchum, to lead the naming efforts" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/13).
SORTING IT ALL OUT: AJERSEYGUY.com's Mark Blaudschun wrote the issue of what to call the current Big East after the Catholic 7 split "will receive the most immediate attention." Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said that the league "will listen to all suggestions, but the term Metro ... is picking up support." He added that the goal is "to have a 12 team, 2 division league." Tulsa "remains the favorite as the 12th team." Meanwhile, the Catholic 7 are "expected to hold an informational meeting" today in N.Y. to "set the agenda for the future." The main topics include expansion, with Butler and Xavier as "the primary targets" and Creighton "not far behind, which will give the new Big East a 10 team league" for '14. Staffing also will be discussed, with the main question being "where to set up." Providence and DC "remain the main contenders." Staying in Providence will "make it easier to cherry pick the current Big East staff, many who will be necessary for a smooth transition." There is "no direction yet" in terms of leadership at the top, but St. John's AD Chris Monasch "reportedly is working the circuit of power brokers." The timing of this "remains crucial since there is a lot of work to be done, much of it behind the scenes, which is vital to the success of the conference" (AJERSEYGUY.com, 3/12).
IS THE GRASS REALLY GREENER? In Tulsa, John Klein writes it is an "uncomfortable alliance that brings together 12 schools for the Conference USA Basketball Tournament in Tulsa this week." Why teams are leaving C-USA for "a new league with no name and basically the same teams is emblematic of everything that is wrong with conference realignment." The league "so many C-USA schools seem eager to join has no name, no history and no details of an agreement." There are "good reasons why Boise State and San Diego State jumped at the first chance to abandon the no-name league and return to the Mountain West Conference" (TULSA WORLD, 3/13). SPORTING NEWS' Lisa Olson wrote the Big East "will live on in name, a bland wanna-be that can't possibly capture three decades worth of grit and magic and plain ol' NYC nuttiness" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 3/12).
TAKING IT ALL IN: VCU President Michael Rao said of conference realignment, "We’re watching it very closely, and I’m staying very close to these discussions. I’m listening more than anything else." He added, "I’ve stayed very close to the Atlantic 10 presidents. I have had some discussions with some of the Big East presidents. I certainly have had some discussions with some of the presidents in other leagues as well. I’m trying to keep a handle on what’s going on." Meanwhile, Rao said of the school's athletic facilities, "We’re short. For a program and university of this size, we really do need to continue to expand our facilities. I’m worried about all the sports. I want to be sure that they all have decent facilities. I also think it’s important for us to think about what we’ll need 50 years from now, 20 years from now, and even 10 years from now" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 3/13).