The Catholic 7 – the departing schools from the Big East Conference – will retain that circuit's moniker, add Butler and Xavier, and tip off their own basketball league with the 2013-14 season.
According to an ESPN report citing sources on Thursday evening, the schools -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, and Villanova – will begin the new Big East with Xavier and Butler in tow for the 2013-14 season.
The push, according to the report, is being driven by Fox Sports. The programmer is expected to announce the new league at a press conference followed by an upfront presentation to advertisers on March 5 in Manhattan, where it will introduce two new national cable sports services, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2. Those networks will be converted from Speed and Fuel, respectively.
Fox Sports declined comment on Thursday evening. Big East officials could not be reached for comment at press time.
The report places the payout of the rights at some $3 million annually per school.
By starting during the next collegiate basketball season, the new Catholic 7 package will effectively serve to reduce the fee paid by ESPN under an agreement reached with the "old" Big East last Saturday for both basketball and football. Financial terms and the number of games exposures were not disclosed, but published reports have pegged that contract at upward of $20 million annually from 2014-20. For the 2013-14 basketball season, the Big East was reportedly going to receive $10 million from ESPN. Now, that total figures to be reduced with the impending departure of the Catholic 7.
NBC Sports had made an official offer for the Big East rights, but ESPN, as the incumbent, held the option to match, which it did on Feb. 21. The worldwide leader's renewal is pending a vote by the conference’s board.
CBS was said to be negotiating a broadcast package with the Big East as well.