PROVIDENCE – After months of silence on the comings and goings of the re-configured Big East, Providence College officials had plenty to say Wednesday.
Staging a press conference that served as the lead-in for the PC-Charlotte NIT battle, School President the Rev. Brian J. Shanley and Athletic Director Bob Driscoll spoke for roughly 30 minutes about a wide range of Big East-related topics. The PC power pair not only broke down the league’s new structure, they also revealed why they have been so close-mouthed in public over recent weeks.
For Shanley and Driscoll, it was important to get all the ducks in the row – from adding Creighton, Xavier and Butler to the “Catholic Seven” collection, to landing a rich 12-year television contract with Fox Sports 1, to making sure the Big East Tournament stays at Madison Square Garden – before coming forth publicly.
“We were trying to have a complete blackout due to the steadying cry (of making some sort of statement on the record). In the end, we were able to do it that way,” said Shanley, who earlier Wednesday served as one of the keynote speakers during the Big East’s official re-launch announcement in New York City.
“This is the first time I’m speaking (publicly) because I wanted to get the deal done and get the schools in,” added Shanley.
Driscoll added that Providence didn’t want to be perceived as stepping on the toes of Mike Aresco – the commissioner of what’s left of the Big East. Driscoll and Shanley were adamant that they wanted to avoid making any kind of statement that could be interpreted as inflammatory – even though that wasn’t the intent..
“We thought we could disengage amicably and do it with respect, and I think we were able to do that,” said Driscoll. “I know that a lot of you (media) folks called me during the process, but we couldn’t say much. I think that it worked to our advantage that we were able to do it in a confidential way and respect people’s wishes.”
Creighton, Butler and Xavier join forces with Providence, St. John’s, Villanova, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul and Seton Hall to form a 10-team league that will begin competing next season. The league schedule will include 18 games with home-and-homes with all opponents.
“For us, being able to keep the Big East name is a good get for us,” said Shanley. “We didn’t want to negotiate until we finished our separation agreement for legal reasons. We were inundated with offers of ‘We want to get into a league with you guys.’”
Shanley cautioned that the newly-minted Big East is not done adding schools. “Eventually I think we will expand, but I wouldn’t put my life on it that’s going to happen next year. We’ll just see how everything plans out.”
Another major sticking point was making sure that the deed to the Big East’s deal with Madison Square Garden would be transferred to the league that was founded with big-time basketball in mind. According to published reports, the Big East’s agreement with MSG is believed to run through the 2026 season.
“The football schools agreed that (MSG) belongs to us; it’s more fitting that we have it,” said Shanley.
The 12-year pact with Fox that is believed to be worth $500 million represents the stability that Big East leaders were seeking.
“I want to be able to tell (PC head coach) Ed (Cooley) that the kids he’s recruiting will be coming into a league that’s stable,” Shanley said. “Fox is truly going to long-term partner with us.”
The conference has empowered Boston-based search firm Russell Reynolds Associates to find its first commissioner, an office Shanley hopes will be filled by July 1. Former Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe will serve as a consultant to the league as it prepares for a brave new world.
“We believe (Beebe) can provide us with the interim leadership and resources along with the (school’s) athletic directors to move this thing forward and as fast as we can,” said Shanley.