Source: Butler, Creighton, Xavier to join Big East

NEW YORK — The two conferences growing out of the old Big East are moving forward.

Butler, Creighton and Xavier will join the so-called Catholic 7 schools in the new basketball conference keeping the Big East name, a person familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement will not take place until Wednesday, when it will be made in conjunction with a news conference on the league’s broadcast deal with Fox.

Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette and DePaul left to form a new league for next season.

Meanwhile, their old colleagues announced a broadcasting deal with ESPN on Tuesday. The unnamed conference’s contract for football, basketball and other sports runs through the 2019-20 season and pays about $20 million a year.

Along with a new name, that league still needs a conference basketball tournament site, a revenue-sharing system and a 12th football member.

The Catholic 7 negotiated to keep their basketball tourney in Madison Square Garden. Xavier and Butler are leaving the Atlantic 10, while Creighton departs the Missouri Valley Conference.

Butler spent just one season in the A-10, rising rapidly in the college basketball world after making the national championship game in 2010 and ‘11 out of the Horizon League. The Bulldogs are a No. 6 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament.

Xavier has long been one of the top basketball programs outside of what were the power six conferences. Before missing the NCAA tournament this season, it was one of only eight schools in the country to make at least seven straight NCAA appearances.

Creighton is a No. 7 seed in this year’s tourney after winning its second straight MVC tournament title. The Bluejays are making their seventh NCAA appearance in 13 years.

All three are private colleges with fewer than 8,000 students, making them natural fits with the Catholic 7. Butler would be the only non-Catholic school in the new Big East.

For those trying to keep score at home, the currently unnamed league will include South Florida, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Temple, Memphis, Central Florida, SMU and Houston in 2013. East Carolina and Tulane are to join in 2014, and Navy is scheduled for football in 2015.

The conference is seeking a 12th football school so it can play a title game in ‘15.

ESPN senior vice president Burke Magnus believes the new alliances will strengthen the league’s members in recruiting and fan support, making its games more and more appealing as time goes on.

“We’re excited about the upside here,” said Magnus, who heads the network’s college sports programming.

The conference’s commissioner, Mike Aresco, says it plans to announce a new name this spring, perhaps as early as next month, to get marketing started quickly. Branding groups, school presidents and business partners are being consulted to narrow the list.

Fans already are weighing in through social media.

“It’s like a national focus group,” Aresco said.

The conference also needs to soon choose a conference basketball tournament site for next year. It will probably be in a city where a member school plays.

Other tasks include determining how to distribute the money from departing schools’ exit fees and other sources.

ESPN has been affiliated with the Big East in its various incarnations for more than three decades. The network will own rights to at least 66 football games and 170 men’s basketball games annually for various platforms, licensing some to other channels.

Magnus said it had not been determined yet if the conference would have a weekly basketball fixture on ESPN like the longstanding “Big Monday” games. Some football will be played on Thursday and Friday, but there has been no talk of Tuesdays, Aresco said.

With Texas schools joining, Aresco added, conference officials will be sensitive to conflicts with that state’s beloved Friday night high school football games.

Aresco is confident the Catholic 7 schools will face their former fellow Big East members in basketball in future nonconference games because the split was amicable. The league expects to announce an additional over-the-air TV deal for basketball next week; its current contract is with CBS.

ESPN’s existing football agreement with the Big East ran through 2013, while the 2013-14 season will act as a bridge year for the conference’s basketball rights; the new contract kicks in for the 2014-15 school year.

There’s a slight chance the football title game could start in 2014. Aresco says it will likely be held on campus, as the Pac-12 does, at least for the first few years.

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