Sources: Big East gets NBC offer

NBC Sports Network verbally offered the Big East between $20 million and $23 million per year for six years to acquire the league's media rights, sources told ESPN.

Meanwhile, the Big East's Catholic 7 schools are closing on a deal with Fox Sports, according to sources.

NBC Sports Network is expected to submit an official offer to the Big East by next week. Once the Big East receives an official offer from NBC Sports Network, the league must give ESPN, the Big East's current rights-holder, the opportunity to match the deal.

The Catholic 7 schools -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova -- haven't formed a new league yet, but Fox Sports has been the leader for their media rights, sources said. Fox Sports' offer would be worth between $30 million and $40 million per year depending on how many teams are in the league, sources said.

"Barring a hiccup," Fox Sports will land the media rights deal for the Catholic 7's new league, a source said.

The Big East's current basketball media rights deal with ESPN and CBS expires after the 2012-13 academic year, while the football deal with ESPN expires after the 2013-14 academic year.

NBC Sports Network's deal for the Big East would include a "bridge year" for basketball in 2013-14 and then would "sync" the football and basketball deals together for another five to six seasons so they expire at the same time.

Before ESPN's exclusivity window to renew the Big East's rights expired in November, the Big East sought a $300 million-per-year deal from ESPN, which would have been the largest in college athletics. However, the network declined, a source said, putting the Big East's media rights on the open market.

Since the exclusivity window expired, NBC Sports Network has been the most aggressive in negotiations with the Big East.

Just two years ago, the Big East turned down a nine-year deal from ESPN worth $1.17 billion, an average of $130 million annually. Since then the bottom has fallen out for the league, which has had 16 schools announce they were leaving during that time.

In April 2011, former Big East commissioner John Marinatto recommended the Big East accept ESPN's nine-year, $1.17 billion deal, but the league's presidents voted to turn it down. That deal would have earned full members $13.8 million a year and non-football members $2.43 million a year.

By comparison, NBC Sports Network's current offer would earn each Big East member about $2 million annually, depending if the league has 11 or 12 members. Navy is scheduled to join in 2015 as its 11th member.

The Big East's current six-year media rights deal is worth $3.12 million annually for each of the eight full members and $1.5 million annually for each of the remaining non-football members. The eight football members split $13 million; the 15 basketball members split $24 million.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving the Big East for the ACC this summer. Louisville and Notre Dame (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) are expected to leave on July 1, 2014.

The Catholic 7 schools and the Big East are negotiating so that the seven schools can leave a year early in 2014, a source said Friday.

"That's where both parties' mindset is at," a source said Saturday.

The biggest obstacle will be the "Big East" conference name. Both the current Big East members and the Catholic 7 want to keep it.

"That's a sticking point in the negotiations," a source said. "They (the Catholic 7) want it and we (the remaining Big East schools) would like to keep it."

In 2014, the Big East will be left with a 10-member conference: UConn, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane and UCF. East Carolina, originally signed as a football-only member, is expected to be made a full member in 2014, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco has said.

In 2015, Navy is scheduled to join the Big East as a football-only member. Tulsa and UMass are the leading candidates to become the Big East's 12th member if the league decides to expand, sources told ESPN.

The Catholic 7 schools still must form a league, decide on a commissioner, bylaws, location, championships, compliance rules and how many schools they will add. They are expected to initially target Butler and Xavier out of the Atlantic 10, and possibly grow to 10 or 12 teams with candidates among Creighton, Dayton, Saint Louis, Richmond and VCU.

The Fox and NBC deals are part of the reasoning why the Catholic 7 is still holding out hope it could leave in the fall of 2013. To do so, though, it would need other schools to buy their way out of the A-10 and possibly the Missouri Valley if Creighton is invited.

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