One of the most intriguing developments in conference realignment has been the breakaway of the "Catholic 7" Big East basketball schools. While realignment has almost exclusively been focused on the television bounty of football, some of the best basketball schools in the country are close to forming a new elite league. With the Big East's total transformation from lower-end BCS conference to mid-pack mid major and the departures of Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, etc. the premier basketball conference in America is no more. The remaining basketball schools, dubbed the "Catholic 7," are ready to abandon a sinking ship. And with good reason - Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, and Villanova could form the core of one of the best basketball leagues in the country.
A basketball league with those schools as well as top programs like Butler, Xavier, Creighton, Dayton, and possibly VCU would be a prime acquisition for any of the major sports networks. WIth the excitement of the new league and the inventory in depth and quality of major college basketball games, it could be one of the most attractive rights deals on the open market. In fact, it could be more attractive and represent better value than what's left of Big East football. Already, both Darren Rovell and Pete Thamel have reported Fox is talking to the breakaway schools. Rovell has the number at potentially over $500 million dollars on a 12 year deal, which is incredible to think for a new basketball only league. Thamel has the dollar figure pegged at around $3 million per year for the participating schools, which might put the value above $400 million for the total package.
But while Fox is the early name associated with the Catholic 7, the truth is that all four of the major sports players (Fox, ESPN, NBC, and CBS) could benefit from winning these television rights, either in bolstering an already strong position, entering a new market, or providing a much needed content boost. With so many other leagues and sports locked up, it could be one of the most competitive negotiations the industry will see in the near future. Let's look at the odds and where the new basketball conference could land as well as an attempt to get an official statement from each network on gauging their possible interest.