- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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The seven Catholic schools that plan to leave the Big East to form their own basketball conference expect to double their money off a television deal, according to sources.
Sources say that Fox, whose Fox Sports 1 channel is set to launch in August, has an initial high offer on the table of more than $500 million for a 12-year deal. Fox Sports 1 will replace the network's motorsports channel Speed, already in 81 million homes. Sources say officials with Fox are scheduled to meet with those representing the interest of the "Catholic 7" in New York City on Wednesday. A Fox spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. A high-ranking source at NBC Sports Network, which has so far engaged in preliminary discussions with the "Catholic 7," declined comment. ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz also declined comment on the network's interest in the "Catholic 7" games.
The presidents of the schools -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova -- met in New York on Friday to discuss the intricacies of the new conference and announced that they retained the legal services of Proskauer Rose and Pilson Communications for television negotiations.
But the television deal is said to be far along. In fact, before the non-football schools left the Big East, sources say the presidents knew they'd be better off leaving. That's because Jordan Bazant, the main partner of New York-based The Legacy Agency, which represents Fox broadcasters including Troy Aikman, Chris Myers and Daryl "Moose" Johnston, already had helped bring Fox to the table. Representatives of St. John's and Georgetown took the lead in those early discussions.
Under the current Big East deal, which expires at the end of this season, the non-football schools receive between $2 million and $3 million from the television contract. There was initial fear the defections of recent football members would leave the non-football schools in a worse position.
It is believed the "Catholic 7" would divide its share of the television rights evenly and split the rest among what ideally will become the other three-to-five schools that it adds to form a 10- to 12-team conference. One source said it is likely the new schools wouldn't share the same amount as the "Catholic 7," which would allow the former Big East basketball schools to earn in the $5 million range. It's thought that free agent schools such as the ones in the Atlantic 10 would be fine with making less than half of that on an annual basis because they currently pull in $400,000 a year. However, under current conference bylaws, there's a required 27-month window in order not to owe exit fees.
In a perfect situation, the "Catholic 7" would be able to leave the Big East at the end of this season and bring in new members, which would allow its television contract to begin next season. Perhaps the promise of new money would allow it to pay fees to get out earlier.