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Big East hoops money outstrips football

Veterans of the Great College Sports Realignment of 2010 -- we should get t-shirts made or something -- are aware of one very important thing about college sports in the modern era: Money drives everything. And football drives money.

This all-important notion was hammered home again and again in the realignment fracas. The Big Ten added Nebraska. The Big East adds TCU in 2012. TCU! When the Big 12 appeared to be on the edge of dissolution, Kansas, one of the nation's true hoops bluebloods, found itself contemplating a potential move to the Mountain West. Dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria.

Which is why it's maybe just a teensy bit refreshing that the Big East -- the one major conference that can conceivably be called a basketball league in the year 2011 -- that in 2011, the Big East received more money from the NCAA for basketball than it did for football. CBS's Brett McMurphy ran the numbers:

The league received more money in 2011 in NCAA tournament revenue ($24.9 million) than it did in BCS football revenue ($21.2 million).

The Big East’s $24.9 million received from the NCAA was about $6 million more than the Big 12, the next closest conference. The NCAA basketball revenue is based on number of “tournament units.” For each round a league team advances it receives another unit. Each unit is worth about $240,000.

Even though the Big East earned the most revenue, the Big Ten had the highest per-team average at $1.67 million, followed by the Pac-10 ($1.6 million), Big 12 ($1.575 million), Big East ($1.55 million), ACC ($1.51 million) and SEC ($1.29 million).

Of course, this is what happens when your 16- (now 17-) team basketball side is traditionally consistently better than your eight- (nine in 2012-) team football operation. Likewise, these monetary numbers are just a fraction of the larger financial forces at work. Television rights, licensing fees and stadium revenues, among many other things, are what really determine where conferences make their money. In that way, the Big East must still worry about its football product, and that's why the conference made the geographically incongruous addition of TCU last year.

Still, it's proof that on a sheer competitive level, not every conference needs to race for BCS greatness. It's a tiny island of hoops superiority in a sea of football-dominated conversation, but isn't it nice to know the island exists?

(Hat tip: Matt Norlander)