Reports: Seven non-football schools vote to leave Big East

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Reports: Seven non-football schools vote to leave Big East

NEW YORK -- The seven Big East schools that don't play FBS football have apparently decided to break from the drastically reshaped conference.

The breakup would be complicated and could conceivably kill the Big East.

Commissioner Mike Aresco conferred by phone with the leaders of those seven schools early Thursday, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

The person said the schools hadn't notified the conference of their decision as of Thursday night.

However, several media outlets reported Thursday that the seven schools -- St. John's, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Seton Hall, Providence and Villanova -- have decided to break away from the league. An announcement is not likely to occur until the schools decide exactly how they want to proceed.

One report says the seven schools may attempt to add three other Catholic, basketball-only schools -- Xavier, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth -- to form a new, 10-team league.

The current Big East football membership includes only four schools -- South Florida, Connecticut and Cincinnati, Temple -- that are committed to the league beyond 2013. But there are 11 schools with plans to join the Big East in the next three years, including Boise State and San Diego State for football only in 2013.

Because those schools won't be members until next summer, the non-football schools in the Big East could vote to dissolve the conference now. Or they could simply leave the league.

Officials at St. John's, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Seton Hall, Providence and Villanova have concerns about the direction of the conference and feel as if they have little power to influence it.

If the schools break off on their own, they could do so without financial penalty. The Big East has provisions in its bylaws that allow a group of schools to leave without exit fees.

Who owns the rights to the name Big East could even be up in the air.

Most importantly there are of millions dollars that would have to be divvied up, including NCAA tournament money that is paid out every five years based on appearances, about 70 million in exit fees the Big East has collected from the recent departures and future possible exit fees from the latest members to announce they are leaving - Rutgers and Louisville.

What would happen to the current and future football members also is unknown. They could simply stick together and continue on the path they are headed. But if the basketball side of the Big East is weakened it could decrease the value of the conference to television networks. The league is currently trying to negotiate a crucial TV contract, but the instability has made it impossible.

The Big East had been hoping to sign a TV deal that could bring in as much as 100 million a year to its members, though some estimates have been a low as 60 million. If the TV money isn't up to the Big East's projections, it could cause some of the future members, especially Boise State and San Diego State, to reconsider joining.

The Mountain West and Conference USA have already lined up replacement members for the schools that have pledged to go to the Big East. Boise State and San Diego State would likely be able to slide right back into the Mountain West, but the seven current C-USA schools would have a less clear future.

All of those schools, even though they have not participated in the Big East, could be on the hook for exit fees to the conference if they did change plans. Or not.

The Big East's long-term plan is to form a 12- to 14-team football conference that spans coast to coast, starting next year, while also having a large basketball league with many of its traditional members.

But the most recent defections of Louisville and Rutgers, along with the additions of Tulane for all sports and East Carolina for football only in 2014, left the basketball schools wondering if it's worth sticking with the plan.

Conference realignment has whittled away the Big East, costing it many of its oldest and most prominent members in the last 16 months. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are going to the Atlantic Coast Conference next year. West Virginia has moved to the Big 12. Louisville is headed to the ACC and Rutgers to the Big Ten, maybe as soon as 2014.

Money doesn't seem to be driving the basketball schools away. The Big East non-football members currently get about 1.6 million from the league's television deals, and that share goes up to about 3.5 million when NCAA basketball tournament money is included. The football members make about 6 million currently.

Even if the Big East doesn't reach its goals with a new TV contract, the Big East basketball schools are not likely to earn much more on their own. Though the difference between what they get without the football schools and what they get with them might be small enough to justify leaving them behind and taking control back of their programs.

"What's football going to look like in 15 years?" Marquette athletic director Larry Williams told ESPN Radio 540 in Milwaukee this week. "They may not be in the power position they are in today. How do we as an elite basketball program fit into the landscape of this football dominated environment? I don't have a complete answer for you, but that's the question."

McAdam: For Dombrowski and Red Sox, the future is now

McAdam: For Dombrowski and Red Sox, the future is now

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Dave Dombrowski has jumped in. All in. With both feet.

For an executive with a reputation for making bold moves, Dombrowski may have made his boldest one yet Tueday by shipping arguably the organization's best position player prospect (Yoan Moncada) and its best pitching prospect (Michael Kopech), along with two others, to the Chicago White Sox for lefty ace Chris Sale.

Adding Sale to a rotation that already includes reigning Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello and David Price gives the Red Sox the American League's best rotation and makes the Sox the team to beat in the A.L.

Hired 17 months ago with a mandate to make the Red Sox winners again after three last-place finishes in the span of four seasons, Dombrowski has acted aggressively and decisively.

Since then, he's obtained Price, Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Thornburg and Sale. That translates into three lefty starters and three back-end power arms in the bullpen.

Of course, all those moves have come at a significant cost. Dombrowski has gone through the Red Sox' minor-league system and shredded it, sacrificing Anderson Espinoza, Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, and now, Moncada and Kopech.

The pitching, in particular, has been stripped bare, with Espinoza and Kopech representing the two best arms in the system. And in Moncada, the Sox gave up on arguably the single most talented propsect in the entire sport.

At a time when teams protect their best young players as though their existence depends on them, Dombrowski has demonstrated a willingess to move them for a chance to win now.

In exchange, the Sox have now built a super rotation, with three front-line starters, augmented by two other lefties (Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez) along with Steven Wright and Clay Buchholz.

It's a virtual certainty that the Sox will move one of those arms now, in a market where there's virtually no quality free-agent starters available.

Buchholz, who stands to earn $13.5 million in 2017, would give them payroll relief, while Rodriguez, because of his youth and upside, might give the team its biggest return.

Dombrowski's moves create a window for the Red Sox. Sale's deal runs through 2019, while Price has an opt-out in his deal after 2018.

That creates some urgency for the Red Sox to capitalize on the strength of their rotation and a nucleus of young position players -- Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi -- and win multiple titles in the next few seasons.

Anything less will be considered a failure.

It's championship-or-bust time at Fenway.

Belichick explains matching in the secondary

Belichick explains matching in the secondary

FOXBORO – Here’s a leftover from last week I’m dredging up because it’s really instructive in giving insight to something we all flap our arms about: how the Pats decide whether to play zone, man-to-man or match receivers with their secondary.

The jumping off-point was asking about Trumaine Johnson -- a long-tall corner for the Rams. As Belichick about Johnson and the difficulties he poses, at 6-foot-2, it brought to mind the team’s acquisition earlier this season of Eric Rowe. The 6-2 corner they got from the Eagles filled a need in that the Patriots other corners are not very tall, headlined by 5-9 Malcolm Butler.

So I asked Belichick if the team strives to have different sized players in the secondary.

“That’s if you move them around,” he explained, meaning size only matters if you intend to put size-on-size. “If you don’t move them around, if you play a guy at one positon and he plays on the right side or the left side, you cover the guy that’s over there, which I’d say is more the situation than not. There are some teams or some situations where you’ve got him, he’s got the next guy, you’ve got somebody else, but I’d say that’s by far the lower percentage of the plays, by far. Generally, you see a corner play – some games are different. We’ll match to this guy and somebody else matches to that guy. Teams will do that. There’s some of that, but by and large, most teams play at one position and whoever is in that spot, that’s who they cover.”

With matching receivers being the exception rather than the rule, the next logical question is why? Why would you let a little guy cover a big guy if you also have a big guy who could cover?

Because offenses make it complicated, Belichick answered.

“The easiest thing in the world is for one player to match another,” he explained. “‘OK, you go cover this guy.’ Alright, great. But what do the other 10 guys do? That’s the problem. It’s easy to matchup one guy. That’s simple. What do the other 10 guys do? What if he’s here? What if he’s there? What if he goes in motion? What if he’s in the backfield? What if it’s this personnel? What if it’s that personnel in the game? Then how does all the rest of it matchup? That’s where it gets tricky.  You can be spending all day, literally, on that. OK yeah, you take this guy but what are you going to do with the other 10?”

Belichick also delved into other options including a coverage concept the Pats used when Darrelle Revis was here. Giving Revis the opponent’s so-called No. 2 receiver and doubling the No. 1.

“You can matchup and put your best guy on their best guy, or you can matchup and put your best guy on let’s call it their second best guy and put your second best guy on their best guy and double him,” Belichick said. “If you’re going to put your best guy on their best guy and double him anyway then you kind of lessen the matchups down the line. It’s like setting a tennis ladder, or whatever. If you put your bad guy at one and you win two through seven, great. If you put your best guy at one and he gets beat by their one and then your two versus their two, you know. That’s what you’re doing. You have a three to four-man ladder there with the receivers and your DB’s [defensive backs], except we don’t have to match them that way. You can match them however you want.”

It’s a fascinating discussion and it comes into play the next two weeks as the Patriots will see a true test with receivers like the Ravens Steve Smith and Denver with Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.

The Patriots will have decisions to make. Chances are they’ll use a little bit of everything. But these are some of the the things they weight when doing so.