'Catholic 7' reportedly has TV deal with Fox

JaKarr Sampson of St. John's attempts to block JaKarr Sampson of St. John's attempts to block Louisville's Russ Smith during the first half. (Feb. 14, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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According to an ESPN report Thursday, the so-called "Catholic 7" schools that previously decided to leave the Big East are expected to announce a media-rights agreement with the Fox Sports Network on Tuesday and begin play in the 2013-14 season.

Citing unnamed sources, ESPN said the departing schools are expected to retain the "Big East" name and add Xavier and Butler from the Atlantic 10 for their first season.

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Industry sources contacted Thursday night by Newsday said nothing has been finalized but agreed the "Catholic 7" is on the verge of a deal with Fox Sports, will retain the Big East name and is likely to begin play in 2013-14.

One industry source told Newsday it is "fully expected" that the "Catholic 7/Big East" Tournament will be held at Madison Square Garden.

The tournament issue was resolved relatively early in the process. Retaining the Big East name will be costly to the departing schools, who must forfeit money they would have received from the conference had they waited the 27 months required by conference bylaws to exit. The remaining "Big East" football schools are meeting in Atlanta, where details of the separation are under discussion.

The promise of a media-rights deal with Fox Sports is what empowered the decision by the "Catholic 7" -- St. John's, Seton Hall, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence and Villanova -- to form their own basketball-first conference.

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Because Fox Sports Network plans a Tuesday announcement of the addition of the Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 channels, it might be pressuring Xavier and Butler to commit. The splash will be bigger if it can announce a deal with the "new Big East" that ESPN's sources said is worth $3 million per school annually.

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