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Networks show interest in DePaul, others leaving Big East

Updated: January 6, 2013 2:21PM

Television networks already are jockeying for position to negotiate with the seven Catholic non-football playing universities exiting the Big East, but the parameters of those negotiations will involve more than dollars.

The seven schools, including DePaul, are interested as much in establishing coast-to-coast exposure that can advertise “the brand” of the new league, since the revenue package offered by any network is expected to be substantial.

Sources Sunday said even though some networks, including ESPN and Fox Sports, already have approached the group’s attorneys and communications adviser, Neal H. Pilson, other issues must be settled first — including an exit calendar from the Big East.

DePaul president the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider was among the seven who met Friday in New York in the latest planning session, agreeing to select Proskauer Rose LLP and Pilson Communications Inc. as consultants. Pilson is the former president of CBS Sports.

Those advisers are expected to field preliminary television proposals, though only parameters of a deal can be offered while the group continues negotiating the immediate matter of when it will leave the Big East and under what terms.

“We’ve hired a very capable television consultant in Neal Pilson, and I know everyone wants our product,’’ DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto said. “But I don’t think you can negotiate a television deal until you know when you will leave.”

The Big East is pressing to keep the seven—including DePaul, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Providence and Villanova—for at least one more year. The group must still negotiate with the football-playing members of the conference on terms of the exit.

That is one more reason any television deal must wait, sources say, since the remaining Big East members might seek to extract more from the seven if it was known they were sitting on a big television package.

The seven currently receive about $2 million from the Big East television deal that expires after this season. Additional revenues come from the NCAA Tournament and Big East Tournament held annually at Madison Square Garden.

At least three networks, including Fox, ESPN and NBC Sports Network, have approached the group’s representatives proposing packages that would offer the schools at least twice what the current Big East payouts are.

But because the group knows it has a highly valued product, it is not inclined to rush the process.

The same is true for membership in the new conference, which schools from the Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley conferences already expressing interest in joining.

The likely additional partners will be Butler and Xavier from the Atlantic 10 and Creighton from the Missouri Valley, giving the new conference 10 members.

But the ranks could expand to 12 by the time play begins as the group weighs offers from other interested schools.

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