We may not have to call them the Catholic 7 for much longer. Providence, Georgetown, Villanova, DePaul, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Marquette will hang on to the Big East name going forward, according to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, Andy Katz and Dana O'Neil. Sources say the Catholic 7 will complete its split in time for next season, taking the Big East name and adding Atlantic-10 schools Xavier and Butler.
Although we don’t know yet what the Catholic 7 will give up to get the name, we do know keeping the name is a big win for the basketball schools.
“[The Big East name] has been associated primarily with basketball,” said Lee Berke, president and CEO of sports media consulting firm LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media. “That’s where the name really developed, through big name college basketball. It makes sense the basketball conference developing would want to use that, particularly with a number of schools still located in the northeastern U.S.”
Not to mention the fact that the schools staying behind no longer share the same eastern geography that initially led to the conference name.
Berke says, in the end, it’s the basketball schools that would have had the most to lose in the name game.
“It’s more important for basketball schools to obtain it, because again you’re talking about schools that were the core of where the Big East started.
“It’s helpful to have in terms of fans, in terms of media exposure. It’s a good calling card. It has value.”
Although it might feel like a loss for the schools remaining in what might aptly be referred to now as “The Conference Formerly Known As the Big East,” Berke says it’s really a rebranding opportunity the conference should embrace.
“You definitely get the chance to start fresh. They need a name that goes along with it. It’s a new situation, a new day for them. It makes sense to have a new conference name,” said Berke.
In terms of future television deals, Berke says keeping or losing the name will have little impact. Those revenues are far more driven by the schools within the conference and their teams’ respective performances.
Losing the name isn’t completely without consequences, however. Roy Mlakar, a director at Sports Value Consulting, a firm which works on valuations of sports franchises, says those losing the Big East name might feel some fiscal fallout down the road.
“We’re running out of landscape in sports from a national brand standpoint. Everyone is looking for ways to increase revenues,” said Mlakar.
The next frontier according to Mlakar? Conference branding rights.
“Picture the Delta Big West or the Verizon Big East,” said Mlakar.
That’s when having a recognized name like the Big East might allow the Catholic 7, and any additional conference members, to cash in.
“It’s going to have a significant impact regardless of who’s in the conference because of the history it has,” said Mlakar.
“Because they’ve built it, it becomes more powerful for the Catholic 7 to take it. The brand is already there. It’s already been established.”