Representatives from Fox television and the seven Catholic basketball schools that broke away from the Big East are meeting in New York City today, according to multiple sources. This is considered the first formal meeting toward brokering a television contract, although one is not expect imminently.
Fox has been considered the leader to televise the new league for weeks. But considering that the league lacks a commissioner and a set lineup of schools, it's unlikely a deal will be announced soon.
Fox sent Larry Jones, its COO of Fox sports, and a legal representative to the meeting. The Catholic Seven -- which officials are starting to call the Basketball Seven, made up of DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova -- will be represented by consultant Neal Pilson and Joe Leccese, co-head of the Sports Law Group at the law firm Proskauer Rose. (There will be no presidents from the seven schools present at the meeting.)
Fox is hoping to use the league's basketball content as a building block of its new sports network, expected to debut this fall. The network has not yet been announced, but its existence is talked about openly in television circles.
The Basketball Seven are thought to be seeking a 12-year deal. The amount that the schools will receive is still under negotiation, but it's believed to be in the neighborhood of $3 million per school. The league is still expected to grow to 12 teams, although the possibility has been discussed that the league could start at 10 schools and grow into a 12-team league.
The heavy favorites to join the seven are Butler and Xavier. Creighton and Dayton are also considered strong candidates. Saint Louis has been discussed for the final spot. Sources say that talk about VCU for that spot has intensified the past few weeks, although it's not clear how strongly VCU is being considered.
VCU does not fit the template of private and religious schools. But there's been discussion that it could be foolish to ignore VCU's basketball success for the past decade, modern facilities and rabid fan base. VCU brings more recent basketball success than half of the Basketball Seven and is of the same caliber of Xavier and Bulter in the past decade.
Now that the Basketball Seven have retained a lawyer and consultant, the biggest question in athletic circles will be when the league will start play. There's a chance that the league could start play for the 2013-14 season. A big part of that will be how the Basketball Seven handle their departure from the Big East. A key factor is that the Big East does not have a television contract for basketball next season. If Fox is launching a new network this fall, they would likely be eager to have the original content provided by the Basketball Seven.