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."

Morning Skate: Not a dry eye as Canucks draftee gets the call

Morning Skate: Not a dry eye as Canucks draftee gets the call

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready to check out GLOW on Netflix.

*This video of a Vancouver Canucks draft pick tearing up while watching the video of his brother celebrating him getting picked is all that is right with the NHL Draft.  

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Adrian Dater has Avs first-round pick Cale Makar talking about his hockey background, and why it doesn’t matter.

*The Calgary Flames are excited about their prospects and the pieces they were able to acquire last weekend.

*The Washington Capitals have re-signed Brett Connolly for a couple of years at short money and he appears to have found a home in DC.

*The Chicago Blackhawks are still in talks with Marian Hossa about how to resolve his contract and the allergic skin condition that might have prematurely ended his hockey career.

*Will the Tampa Bay sports go through a dry spell when it comes to Hall of Fame athletes now that former Lighting forward Dave Andreychuk has been called to the Hockey Hall?

*It looks like young Pierre Luc Dubois will be put in a position to contribute with the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.

*Alex Prewitt has a preview of the NHL free agency period and the stress levels that many players go through in it.

*For something completely different: This video of Drake and Will Ferrell hoop handshakes was pretty solid, and funny.

 

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

BOSTON — It doesn’t really matter what’s holding Hanley Ramirez back: his health, his desire to play through injuries, neither, both. The Red Sox need him to hit better as the designated hitter, or give someone else a chance in his place.

Tuesday is June 27. From May 27 on, Ramirez is hitting .202 with a .216 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage.

Putting Ramirez on the disabled list so that he can heal up, or at least attempt to, would be reasonable. If you can’t hit well — if you can’t even be in the lineup, as has been the case the last two days — you're hampering the roster.

Ramirez was out of the lineup for a second straight game on Tuesday because of his left knee, which was hit by a pitch Sunday. He’s been bothered by his shoulders all season.

“He’s improved today. He’s responding to treatment,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday of Ramirez’s knee. “He’s still going through some work right now. Would get a bat in his hand here shortly to determine if he’s available to pinch hit tonight. Prior to yesterday’s game, day to day, and still in that status, but he is improving.”

The route to better production doesn’t matter. As long as the Sox get some, be it from Ramirez or somewhere else. Flat-out benching Ramirez in favor of Chris Young or Sam Travis or both for a time should be on the table.

When it comes to lineups vs. lefties, Farrell might be thinking the same way. 

Farrell was asked Tuesday if he’d consider playing someone at DH other than Ramirez for performance reasons.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Farrell said. “Where he was so good against left-handed pitching last year, that’s been still a work in progress, for lack of a better way to describe it. So we’re always looking to put the best combination on the field.”

A right-handed hitter, Ramirez is just 5-for-35 (.143) vs. lefties this season, after hitting .346 against them a year ago.

On the flip side: in the final three months of the 2016 season, Ramirez hit .300 with a .379 OBP and .608 slugging percentage overall. That’s from the start of July through the end of the regular season vs. all pitchers.

“You know, the one thing you can’t completely turn away from is what Hanley did last year,” Farrell said. “While I know that’s last year, we’re still working to get some increased performance from him. I think he’s still a key member in our lineup. The presence he provides, the impact that he’s capable of. And yet, we’re still working to get there.”

Farrell said the team hasn’t been able to pinpoint a particular reason for Ramirez’s struggles vs. southpaws.

“No,” Farrell said. “There’s been extensive video review. There’s been extensive conversations with him. There’s been stretches, short stretches, where he’s I think shown the approach at the plate and the all field ability to drive the baseball. That’s been hit and miss a little bit. So, we’re just trying to gain a consistency that he’s been known for.”

Mitch Moreland's been playing with a fractured big toe in his left foot. After he homered and had another impactful night Monday, Farrell made some comments that are hard to read as anything but a message to Ramirez.

“In [Moreland's] most recent stretch, he’s been able to get on top of some fastballs that have been at the top of the strike zone or above for some power obviously,” Farrell said. “But I think the way he’s gone about it given the physical condition he’s in, is a strong message to the remainder of this team.”

Asked about that comment a day later, Farrell shot down the idea he was trying to reach Ramirez or anyone else with that remark about playing hurt.

“No,” Farrell said Tuesday. “I respect the question, but that was to highlight a guy who has been dealing with a broken toe, continues to perform at a high level and to compliment Mitch for the way he’s gone about it.”

It doesn't matter why Ramirez isn't producing, at a certain point. Either he is or he isn't. If not, they need to be willing to give someone else an extended look, whether it lands Ramirez on the DL or simply the bench.