(KMOV.com) -- It would be hard to find a time in the 106-year history of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that saw as much change as the past year. Starting in August of 2011 when the University of Texas launched its own “Longhorn Network,” which in effect served as a catalyst for a host of changes including the University of Missouri’s jump to the SEC, collegiate athletics have undergone a complete transformation. Schools have switched allegiances and signed lucrative television deals. Certain conferences have gotten stronger, while others dissolved. No conference has been hit by these upheavals as hard as the Big East.
It didn’t seem like it could get worse for the Big East after 2012 when they lost West Virginia to the Big 12, were spurned by TCU and Boise State, and saw three of their current schools (Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers) pledge allegiances to new conferences. Much to the chagrin of Big East fans everywhere, the worst was yet to come when, in December, seven basketball-only schools decided to bolt the Conference as a group.
The newly-dubbed “Catholic Seven”, a name that will stick with the media and fans, regardless of whether or not it is politically correct, is comprised of DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. Johns and Villanova. While the seven won’t start conference play until their Big East contracts run out in June 2015, that hasn’t stopped the institutions from already pursuing a commissioner and exploring a television deal worth millions.
Why does this matter to St. Louis? The presidents of the seven schools met last week with FOX representatives, who confirmed a $500 million offer fee that would be based on a 12-year deal with the seven schools. The Conference would also need to commit to adding five additional teams to the newly formed basketball-only league. And right in the heart of St. Louis sits Saint Louis University (SLU), which couldn’t be a better fit for the new Conference. Basketball-rich and needing Midwest teams, the opportunity seems to be right up Saint Louis University’s alley.
Money is the driver in the college athletic world today, but that doesn’t figure to be the only factor for SLU in determining a bid to jump ship from the A10. In terms of locale, SLU fits the mold for the urban nature of the Conference. Marquette, St John’s, Villanova, Georgetown and DePaul and are all located in prominent metropolitan areas, and adding a similar-sized school in another major market like St. Louis would make inordinate sense for the “Catholic Seven”…financially (it is all about the ratings), academically and competitively. In having two schools in Marquette and DePaul that are not located in the same region geographically as the remaining institutions, expect the “Catholic Seven” to look for regionally complementary schools that can fit well on an academic and athletic level with the two schools. With SLU’s closest opponent presently being the University of Dayton, geographically, this move seems like a potential winner for the St. Louis institution and its fans. (And don’t be surprised if Dayton is not far behind as it moves the Conference into the rich recruiting state of Ohio.) With strong fan bases at SLU, Marquette and DePaul, the Conference would love the fact that fans can drive to the “big games.” And what a championship that would make…the Eastern division against the Midwest division.
From a financial standpoint, SLU would clearly benefit. According to reports compiled by various news organizations, it is believed that the “original” seven catholic schools would share the TV rights evenly amongst themselves and split the rest among the handful of teams that join. If the FOX deal is signed by the “Catholic Seven,” each of the seven original members would reportedly make in the neighborhood of $5 million dollars. If SLU were able to join the conference, they would make almost half of that annually from the contract. According to the same reports, SLU’s current contract sees them bring in about $400,000 a year.
It’s also a “can’t miss” opportunity from a purely competitive point of view. Between the original seven teams, they have made 18 Final Four appearances and have won three National Championships. Add the great SLU basketball pedigree to that, and you have one of the toughest, most competitive basketball conferences in the country. What that means for the school, for school pride and for school reputation cannot be bought.
With more money comes more television appearances, more national appeal, and greater interest nation-wide in the school. Not only can this increase the competition on the court for SLU, but off the court as well…from the classroom to the global stage as the school’s position, reputation and legacy will be spread.
With their creation of a new league, the “Catholic Seven” has opened the door for other institutions to join them. For Saint Louis University, that door is wide open.