Many web-pages have been published in the past several months regarding the 'sad' dissolution of the Big East Conference so far as we have come to know it (Syracuse, Louisville, Rutgers, et al.). Now, I must immediately confess to those who are not familiar with my stance on N.C.A.A. Division I men's basketball (henceforth 'college basketball') that I am a fan of mid-majors. Whenever I claim to be a fan of college basketball, I mean that I am a fan of mid-major basketball. (Gonzaga is a mid-major, for instance, and the Bulldogs should not be ashamed to be a mid-major. It is not wrong to be a mid-major, because my definition of a mid-major program does not depend on program success, but on program expenses. Any angst people express toward the term like as if it a sign of the plague is a hint at their own hubris, which is a moral sin.) During the 2011-12 season, I was a contributing writer for the Eighth Season of The Mid-Majority, also referred to as #TMM8. Mr. Kyle Whelliston, the founder of the website, offers a financial definition of the somewhat ambiguous term 'mid-major' which is exclusively independent of success. Since most conferences were founded with shared revenue amongst its members highly in mind, it is fitting that his definition of a mid-major depends on the conference in which a team plays. He found that a team, or a conference, with the minimal athletic budget (expenses) of $20,000,000 and the minimal budget of $2,000,000 for men's basketball, would defeat an opponent which spent figures below those thresholds approximately 85 of 100 times. He called this set of thresholds the 'Red Line.' One of the consequences of the dissolution of the Big East Conference, which is the announced jettison of seven basketball-centric programs, peaks my interest as it pertains to whether they can seep below the Red Line thresholds. The purpose of this piece is to determine whether we can determine the forthcoming league which will be anchored by this group of seven programs as a mid-major league.
Now, before we delve into this discussion of one of the consequences of the dissolution of the Big East Conference with which we have been acquainted, we should briefly review what is the 'Catholic Seven.' Well, on 16 December 2012, a group of seven programs within the current Big East Conference consisting of charter members Georgetown, Providence, Saint John's, and Seton Hall, long-time conference entity Villanova, and newer members DePaul and Marquette, decided that they no longer desired to let their basketball-focused programs be swayed about by the football-oriented members. According to a U.S.A. Today report from 16 December, the group of seven programs announced that they were "officially leaving the [Big East] conference to pursue a 'new basketball framework.'" The seven programs, called in the media the 'Catholic Seven' but nicknamed the 'Basketball Seven' in television deal negotiations, perceived that they needed to decide what they wished to do for the longevity of their programs in wake of the exodus of several Big East members, including charter member Syracuse, long-time entity Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Rutgers, and recent addition Louisville. According to a report, the addition of Tulane "alienated" the members of the 'Catholic Seven' due to the history of ineptitude at the national level for the Green Wave program, and it encouraged the group to announce its exit from the Big East Conference. It was thought that adding this member would further sink the conference R.P.I. of the Big East, as had been thought to a lesser extent after the additions of Houston and Southern Methodist (East Carolina was also added, albeit initially for football only).
Currently, the Catholic Seven are close to sealing a new television deal with Fox Sports, which should soil any skepticism amongst any persons who had thought that this dissolution of the Big East Conference is only a dream, or a joke, depending upon the person prompted for an opinion. Succinctly, the Catholic Seven will soon be the charter programs for a new, basketball-oriented league (henceforth called the 'Catholic League' for our purposes), consisting of themselves and a handful of like-minded members yet to be determined. The matter of which programs will receive potential invitations is currently a topic of speculation in Internet forums.
Now, we return to my take on the dissolution. I must also confess that I am currently less than a semester's time from completing a Master of Arts degree at the institution of Big East Conference member Providence. (Further, I recently applied to a Ph.D. program at another Big East member, namely Marquette.) That fact may seem hypocritical given my affinity for mid-majors, but my interest in the Catholic Seven, which involves the Red Line, will be explained further down. Anyway, I lack interest in American-style football, which is one reason why I do not like the Big East, or rather its recent record of behavior in attempting to strengthen itself in football. Along with spending outrageous amounts of money simply for entertainment purposes, some of the members of the supposedly-awesome conference have an especial focus on being competitive in football (e.g. Louisville), a sport in which I have no interest. I do not understand the infatuation with football in the United States, but that opinion is another story for another day. Despite my dislike for what I see as wasting expenses simply to promote entertainment over academic excellence, I must admit that the recent chatter regarding the forthcoming and yet to be labeled Catholic Seven league has been somewhat enthralling for a fan of college basketball. Due to football as being the primary and overwhelming driver of expenses (as well as revenue) for the Big East Conference, my hypothesis is that the Catholic Seven should now fall much closer to the 'Red Line' thresholds, if not fall beneath them. (Although I am quite aware that the Catholic Seven prefers the tentative title 'Basketball Seven,' I choose to refer to the group as the former because it admittedly sounds cooler and it makes more sense right now (all seven programs are Catholic, and a few members play football at the Division 1-AA level, namely Georgetown and Villanova)).
However, we must also remember that the Catholic Seven desires to invite either three members to charter a ten-member league or five members to establish a twelve-member conference. I have heard that the members most likely to be invited to the new conference - I surmise that the league will start with twelve members for the sake of increased revenue in the television deal - are, in order from most coveted to least coveted, Xavier, Butler, Creighton, Dayton, and Saint Louis. Xavier and Butler would be invited as a pair, according to a recent report from the Cincinnati Business Courier. Both programs have implicitly reciprocated interest in such a plausible invitation, despite Butler not only recently having left the Horizon League for the Atlantic 10 Conference but also being tied for third in its first season in the Atlantic 10 (as of 28 February). Even though Xavier is having a 'down' season by its high standards, the Musketeers is still an elite program and should be in national contention again within the next three seasons. Initially, I had read that Virginia Commonwealth was also being seriously considered. Further, I had read that should the league wish to have a presence in the West coast as well as the East coast, then the league might extend invitations to West Coast Conference (W.C.C.) programs Gonzaga and Saint Mary's (the two would be a package deal, not Gonzaga alone, contrary to a few reports). Due to travel cost concerns for the other sports sponsored by the Bulldogs and Gaels, I have heard that it is unrealistic that the W.C.C. programs will be invited, despite interest in both members from Georgetown head coach John Thompson III.
Recently, Georgetown voiced strong interest in the idea of inviting Richmond to the Catholic Seven. Richmond is plausible - the small, private University in northwestern Richmond, Va. matches the profiles of the other schools in question (except it does not feature a Catholic Christian heritage) - and more likely than Virginia Commonwealth (V.C.U.), a contrast in profile to city rival Richmond. However, it must be noted that Mr. Keith Gill, the Athletics Director of the University of Richmond, has said that "[t]he Spiders at this time [1 January 2013] are not lobbying to join [the Catholic Seven]," according to a report from John O'Connor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. I do realize that the cynical reaction to these words is that Richmond is exploring the possibility of accepting an invitation to join the Catholic Seven. However, I would prefer to accept Mr. Gill's words until informed otherwise, if that happens.
Regarding fan speculation on candidates for charter invitations, I've heard some plausible ideas as well as some more far-fetched ones. In the category of the former, I've read rallies for V.C.U., Duquesne, and Detroit-Mercy. Unlikelier ideas, for varying reasons, include Iona, George Mason, and Valparaiso.
George Mason would not fit because it is a large, public institution, much like V.C.U., a school with a similar profile, which is why I do not think that V.C.U. will be invited, despite strong consideration. The idea that George Mason is being realistically discussed as a future recipient of an invitation, as Scott M. Gleeson words it in his 17 December 2012 article concerning potential Catholic Seven candidates, "seems a bit far-fetched... but those mentions could simply be out of respect for the program's hoops history."
Iona is a better fit in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (M.A.A.C.), with similar schools as Fairfield, Niagara, and Siena, than in this forthcoming 'Catholic' league. The Gaels of New Rochelle did earn an at-large berth into last season's N.C.A.A. Tournament as a No. 14 seed, but an invitation will be offered on more than merely recent success. The Catholic Seven will not invite Iona simply because the Gaels are good or Lamont "Momo" Jones currently plays for the Gaels or Scott Machado once played for the Gaels. Besides, the Catholic Seven would already have a presence in the New York metropolitan market due to Saint John's (Queens, N.Y.) and Seton Hall (South Orange, N.J.).
Saint Joseph's (S.J.U.) would be a fine fit for the proposed conference. However, my guess here is that the reasoning that S.J.U. will not be invited is two-fold: Villanova (V.U.) already handles the vast Philadelphia television market, and it took a pull of a front paw and a prodding of the backside of the Wildcat to convince V.U. to support the decision to invite fellow Philadelphia Big Five rival Temple to join the Big East over a year ago. We should posit these hypothetical questions: Would Villanova truly wish to have its other front paw yanked on the matter of S.J.U.? Why would the forthcoming league, which has shown some concern for proposed revenue, invite a second member in the Philadelphia market? (Remember, the Big East, which was desperate to stay together, had little choice but to invite Temple to join it a year ago.) Mr. John Feinstein, in a special report for The New Haven (Conn.) Register, notes that S.J.U. will not be invited to join the Catholic League "because Villanova would block any move to add another team from Philadelphia."
|Villanova is hindering the Catholic Seven from |
realistically inviting Drexel, La Salle, or Saint Joseph's.
Drexel, which is in the University City region of West Philadelphia, will likely not be asked to join the forthcoming league for the same reason as that which is preventing S.J.U. and La Salle from being considered for membership.
On the thought of the proposed league's concern for revenue, that reason alone may disqualify Saint Bonaventure (S.B.U.) from consideration. Despite my admitted interest in the tiny Franciscan college nestled in western New York, the program would likely not be pondered because it is located in a small, remote market. Although the program has found a shred of recent success - the Bonnies, featuring N.B.A. Orlando Magic rookie Andrew Nicholson, won the 2012 A-10 Tournament title over Xavier, thus earning an automatic berth into the N.C.A.A. Tournament as a No. 14 seed and narrowly losing to No. 3 Florida State - its location will likely hurt itself as a possibility.
|Duquesne is probably a long-shot candidate for the Catholic League.|
Creighton, from what I have read, would likely leave the Missouri Valley Conference (M.V.C.) for the Catholic League, should it be invited to join it. I think the chance that an invitation from the Catholic Seven to Creighton University is sent is high. Most casual fans of college basketball are not aware that Creighton (Omaha, Neb.) plays its home games in the CenturyLink Center (formerly Qwest Center), which not only regularly sells-out its home matches, but also does so in an arena that seats about 17,000 people. A back-story: In April 2008, I went to Drake University (Des Moines, Iowa) for an orientation session (I had committed to be a transfer-freshman for the upcoming fall). My mother and I flew from Florida to Omaha, than drove from Omaha to Des Moines. We stayed a night in arguably the nicest Embassy Suites I've seen to date. Anyway, the next day, I asked my mother if she would drive by Creighton University on the way to Des Moines for the sake of my curiosity. "It's on the way!" the mother was assured by her geographically-aware son. Although the campus is in a rougher part of Omaha, the campus itself seems quite nice (we didn't have time to walk about Creighton). Also on our way to Des Moines was what was then the Qwest Center. It is comparable to most Big East arenas based on the exterior and the seating capacity. The profile of the University matches those of the Catholic Seven institutions. Further, I can say from first-hand experience that the fans of any Missouri Valley program - not just Creighton or Drake - would compare to those of Georgetown or Villanova. They are passionate and creative, not unlike the fans of any Catholic Seven program, like Georgetown. Further, I watched the Creighton at Wichita State game on television (I was rooting for the Bluejays, should a reader ask). The Wheatshockers fans were loud and proud. The same can be said for the fans of Illinois State, whose Redbirds narrowly lost to Wichita State within a few weeks before this post. Again, the Redbirds fans were boisterous and innovative. Creighton would be an excellent candidate for the Catholic Seven and is being pondered as such by the group.
I don't have much to write regarding Saint Louis, although the Billikens looked quite impressive in a home rout of Virginia Commonwealth recently and again in a road win at Butler. Some college basketball fans would rip Saint Louis for its lack of N.C.A.A. Tournament appearances. However, this program has much in its favour. Firstly, it should be noted that despite its lack of N.C.A.A. Tournament berths, whether of the automatic or at-large type, Saint Louis has been remarkably efficient in its few times in the Tournament. In its first appearance in 1952, Saint Louis made its regional final (commonly called the 'Elite Eight'). In its next appearance, in 1957, Saint Louis reached a regional semi-final (similarly dubbed the 'Sweet Sixteen'). Most recently, in the 2012 Tournament, (9) Saint Louis beat (8) Memphis and narrowly lost to impressive and top-seeded Michigan State. The Billikens are more often found in the once-prestigious National Invitational Tournament (N.I.T.). In 1948, Saint Louis' first ever berth in the N.I.T., the program won the title over the New York [University] Violets (now in Division III) when the Violets were competitive in Division I. Now, some college basketball fans would likely question the relevance of the history of the Billikens programs to now. Well, it's a double-standard: In the very N.C.A.A. Tournament in which Saint Louis made its debut, Kansas won its first N.C.A.A. national title over Saint John's. Six seasons ago, Kansas won its third N.C.A.A. national title in the sport. Jayhawks fans take pride in its national titles, which is indicative of pride for the history of the Kansas program. Thus, history is more relevant than some fans would like to admit. (A side note: I'm not soiling my right foot into the beak of the Jayhawk with that example. On the contrary, I became a great fan of the town of Lawrence after I made my first visit there in November 2008. The Java Break is on my shortlist of favorite cafés across the U.S..)
That aforementioned special report from Mr. John Feinstein of The New Haven (Conn.) Register bears noting again because it highlights an unexpected program which has entered the Catholic Seven discussions. He mentions the likely number of twelve for the Catholic League, which would be split into a six-member West division and a six-member East division. Interestingly, he mentions that "[t]he Eastern division of the league will consist of Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova, Providence and either Richmond (also a non-Catholic school) or Siena — a late entry but a potentially appealing one because it’s a Catholic school that (more importantly) plays in a 15,500-seat arena in Albany, N.Y." (Emphasis added.) Mr. Feinstein makes a good point regarding the Times Union Center in downtown Albany, the capital city of the state of New York. The Saints have had a bit of success lately and might fill some of the massive gap left by Syracuse since the program is technically in upstate New York. I'm slightly hesitant to believe that Siena would really be sent an invitation over Creighton or even Richmond, despite what Mr. Feinstein notes about the Bluejays programs being "considered too far west (Omaha, Neb.) for teams in non-revenue sports to travel." After all, his same reported outline mentions Saint Louis, which is about one-hundred miles closer to Marquette (Milwaukee, Wis.) than Omaha. Still, we must seriously consider Siena as a candidate to charter the Catholic League.
One potential member which has seldom been hypothesized, but is a much more serious candidate than most people outside of the thinking of the Catholic Seven realize, is Holy Cross. Yes, the Crusaders currently play in the Patriot League. Yes, the Crusaders have not made the N.C.A.A. Tournament since 2007 when it lost in the first round to (4) Southern Illinois 61-51. However, three significant reasons exist for the Catholic Seven to give the Jesuit college in Worcester, Massachusetts a long, contemplative gander. The first reason is the potential television market in which Holy Cross resides. The Boston market was once anchored strongly by Boston College and, to some extent, Connecticut. In fact, when the Big East Conference was chartered in 1979, Holy Cross, not Boston College, was sent an invitation, a subject on which I once extensively wrote. Even though Boston College departed the Big East Conference in 2005, the market was still stable with a Connecticut team which had won the national title the previous year and had relished in an embarrassment of success. Now, the flight from the Big East leaves a void in that market for the Catholic Seven. According to a New York Daily News report, the Catholic Seven has an interest in having a presence in the Boston market. A source within the report is quoted as saying, "'It would give the conference the TV markets in Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Boston - the way the Big East was when it started.'" Northeastern is highly unlikely for the Catholic Seven. Harvard is not leaving the Ivy League. Massachusetts is a much better fit for the reshaped Big East Conference than the Catholic Seven due to its investment in football. Boston College is fully committed to prioritizing football before men's basketball. We should note that Boston University is preparing to depart the America East Conference for the Patriot League, which could fill a void in the Patriot League, should a program decide to leave. Holy Cross is the best fit for the Catholic Seven in that respect, particularly since the Crusaders already play a few non-conference games in the D.C.U. Center in downtown Worcester, which seats about 14,000 patrons for Crusaders basketball games. (Their on-campus basketball arena, the Hart Center, seats 3,600 persons and it should be noted that "Connecticut, Georgetown, Ohio State and Providence" have previously played the Crusaders in the Hart Center.)
A second reason for the Catholic Seven considering Holy Cross is its similarities in profile to the other members of the group. The College of the Holy Cross was founded as a Catholic Christian school by the Society of Jesus. Georgetown, Marquette, and Xavier were also founded by the Jesuits. Although the forming league is not necessarily Catholic Christian in constitution, it is vital to note that the core members are all Catholic in tradition and are eyeing mostly institutions that are likewise Catholic in tradition. In other words, it is not being founded as a strictly 'Catholic league.' However, it is merely natural that a group of Catholic programs would seriously consider inviting programs that are likewise Catholic (as well as Butler, which was founded as a Christian university, and Richmond, which was founded as a Baptist Christian seminary).
Finally, Holy Cross touts a long history of success in men's basketball. The reader can scan my article on a Boston College at Holy Cross game I attended last season for tidbits on the proud Crusaders program. Here are a few points, though. In 1947, Holy Cross won the national title over Oklahoma. The next season, Holy Cross again made what is commonly called today the 'Final Four.' N.B.A. players such as Bob Cousy, George Kaftan, and Tommy Heinsohn played for the Crusaders. As recently as 17 January 1978, the Crusaders was considered a top-15 team. Their recent history clouds the passion for this program which still exists both in Worcester and elsewhere. Each time Holy Cross has won the Patriot League Tournament title and earned the automatic berth to the N.C.A.A. Tournament, the Crusaders have played admirably well against its first-round opponent (e.g. 2002 (1) Kansas, 2003 (3) Marquette). Although Holy Cross has yet to advance beyond the first round in the modern era, it must be noted that it is simply difficult to recruit the necessary talented young men to build a program comparable to Harvard under Tommy Amaker or especially Butler under Brad Stevens. It can be done, but it is an arduous undertaking. The history of the Holy Cross program alone can attract a highly-touted prospect to want to play for the Crusaders. However, the program is in the Patriot League, rather than the Big East Conference, simply because of a desire to ensure that academic excellence is prioritized over athletic prowess. That doesn't mean that a balance can be had, as Georgetown and Xavier show us.
According to a 19 December 2012 report by Ms. Jennifer Toland of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the Crusaders program is not oblivious to the idea that it could be invited to join the forthcoming Catholic league.
[The] announcement that seven Catholic schools are breaking from the Big East Conference to form their own basketball-centered league has a lot of Holy Cross supporters wondering if the new conference could mean new opportunities for [Holy Cross].
“There’s no way of knowing at this point,” Holy Cross director of athletics Dick Regan said Tuesday. “I honestly don’t know if there’s an opportunity for us or not at this point. It’s too early to try to guess at something.”
“There is a lot of interest and people are talking about it, but right now there has been no serious discussion at Holy Cross,” Regan said. “And it is complicated. It isn’t just a simple matter of Holy Cross decides they want to do it and they’re in. It looks like it’s going to be a national conference. They could have West Coast teams in this thing [i.e. Gonzaga]. At this point, there are far more questions than there are answers.”
Again, Holy Cross should not be dismissed simply because of league affiliation in the modern era. Siena is being seriously considered for the Catholic League, even though it is in the M.A.A.C. What we know at the moment is that Butler and Xavier are "virtual locks" to be invited to join the League. We also know that Creighton, Dayton, Richmond, Saint Louis, and Siena are in a small pool of teams being pondered for the other spot, or three spots, depending upon whether the League starts with ten or twelve teams. Finally, we know that there are more teams which are considered long-shot possibilities, but have reasons for being contemplated, including Detroit-Mercy (Detroit market, Catholic tradition), Duquesne (Pittsburgh market, Catholic Christian heritage), Gonzaga (West Coast appeal, Catholic/Jesuit backgrounds, astounding success), Saint Mary's (West Coast attraction, Catholic/Lasallian traditions, great prosperity), Virginia Commonwealth (Recent success under Rams head coach Shaka Smart, East Coast market). Any other suggestions at this point which I've heard are reasonable, but are not realistic due to varying reasons, such as George Mason (Profile as large, public university), Iona (Saint John's and Seton Hall already serve New York market), La Salle (Villanova is discouraging competition for the Philadelphia market), Saint Bonaventure (Little exposure in Olean, N.Y.), Saint Joseph's (Same as La Salle), and Valparaiso (Butler would cover the Indianapolis market, and Detroit-Mercy would apparently be invited before Valparaiso).
What do I think will happen? Well, now, we'll discuss different propositions for the Catholic League with an emphasis upon measuring the Catholic Seven to the Red Line definition of a 'mid-major' league.
Would the Catholic League be a 'mid-major' conference?
My interest in the Catholic Seven and its forthcoming league is whether the conference will be considered a mid-major one according to the Red Line definition invented by Mr. Whelliston. His Red Line depends on The Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Cutting Tool, provided by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education. Each year, all postsecondary institutions, whether at the N.A.I.A. level or the N.C.A.A. one, provide financial information pertaining to each school's respective athletic program. As far as I know, private institutions that are granted federal aid are required to provide their financial information. It is this Tool that I'll use to answer my inquiry.
We already know that the Catholic Seven - DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Saint John's, Seton Hall, and Villanova - are certainly going to charter this forthcoming league. The Red Line definition, as we may recall, is two-fold: The institution should spend minimally $2m. on its men's basketball program, and the school should spend minimally $20m. on its entire athletics program. In order to not be considered a mid-major, the program must be above BOTH thresholds. A program can be considered a mid-major one if it meets one threshold, but does not meet the other threshold (i.e. Atlantic 10). For our lengthy exercise, we can examine the Catholic Seven members themselves.
What stands out? Well, not surprisingly, Georgetown spends quite a lot more money in men's basketball than the other programs of the Catholic Seven. Although the Catholic League will be formed on the premise of a "new basketball framework," it is important to note in analyzing the figures for the overall athletic expenses for the programs that Georgetown and Villanova each touts a F.C.S. program, the former finding lesser recent success than the latter. When we pore over the data, though, we find that the forthcoming league with merely the Catholic Seven entities would be very much above the Red Line threshold in its average men's basketball expenses, but just above the Red Line threshold in its average overall athletics expenses. Thus, if the Catholic Seven started a league with just its seven members, that league would not be eligible for mid-major coverage, which is a shame.
Now, I'd like to extend our exercise by supposing twelve different Catholic Seven lineups after invitations are extended and accepted. Although I will include Butler and Xavier as a part of the group in all hypothesized league lineups, we must remember that although the additions of Butler and Xavier are virtually certain, we cannot assume anything that is not actually certain. Thus, the inclusion of Butler and Xavier in any surmised league lists is based on the idea that the two programs would very likely receive invitations to join our Catholic League, and would very likely accept the formal pleas to join.
In Proposal I, we presume that the Catholic League will consist of ten programs, the invited three being Butler, Creighton, and Xavier. (All figures forthcoming, except for those under the row 'AVERAGE' are provided by the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education. The figures listed under 'AVERAGE' were computed by me.)
If the Catholic League resembles Proposal I, then it would be more than three times more than the Red Line threshold for men's basketball and barely above the threshold for total athletics expenses. The Catholic League under the Proposal I model should be considered a 'major' league, even if barely so.
In Proposal II, we decide that the Catholic League will comprise ten programs, the invited three being Butler, Holy Cross, and Xavier. Recalling our earlier observations on the Holy Cross program and its surprisingly realistic prospect of being invited to join the Catholic League, we must treat the Crusaders program as a serious candidate for membership, whether casual fans like it or not.
We should compare Creighton and Holy Cross in this scenario. Although Holy Cross spends significantly less money on men's basketball than Creighton, the Crusaders program spends surprisingly more money on its overall athletics program than the Bluejays program does. Should the Catholic League adopt a membership list matching Proposal II, then we find once again that the Catholic League is above both thresholds, and should thus be considered a 'major' league.
In our Proposal III, we suppose again that the Catholic League will have ten members, the three invited programs being Butler, Richmond, and Xavier. Remember, Georgetown is on the record as saying that it would like to see Richmond invited to the League. We must consider the Spiders program as a legitimate possibility.
Richmond, in comparison to Creighton, spends less money on men's basketball, but more money for its athletics department overall. Proposal III resembles Proposal II on financial terms, except the men's basketball average is a tad higher. The Catholic League, having a membership list resembling Proposal III, would be above both thresholds, and thus a 'major' league.
For our last hypothesized proposal with ten teams, Proposal IV, we shall include Butler, Dayton, and Xavier as the invited programs.
The financial figures for Dayton are quite similar to those of Richmond, so Proposal IV is quite similar to Proposal III. The Catholic League, should it adopt a list identical to Proposal IV, would definitely be above the Red Line thresholds, and thus a 'major' conference.
In our Proposal V, we shall suppose that the Catholic League decides to charter with twelve teams. The five invited programs in this scenario are Butler, Creighton, Dayton, Saint Louis, and Xavier. Although I understand that a handful of readers may be upset at the idea that Saint Louis would not be invited to help form the Catholic League should it genesis with merely ten programs, we must recall that the Catholic Seven would approach Butler, Creighton, and Xavier before any other program, according to reports. Remember, the chance exists that a program could reject a bid to join the Catholic League, even if that seems unlikely. Should any one of those three invitations be rejected, then Dayton, Saint Louis, and the other serious possibilities would be entertained.
In our first twelve-team membership proposal, we see that the Catholic League would still be well over the Red Line threshold in men's basketball. However, a scenario in which not just one but a handful of programs with overall athletics expenses well underneath the $20m. threshold helps the overall League be closer to being a sub-Red Line league. Alas, close is not close enough. This Catholic League would be a 'major' one under the Proposal V model.
Our Proposal VI, another twelve-team list, would be more pertinent should the Catholic Seven decide to approach two certain West Coast Conference programs. This proposal involves accepted invitations for Butler, Gonzaga, Richmond, Saint Mary's, and Xavier. We must recall that it is unlikely that the League will truly invite Gonzaga because of travel cost concerns not for its men's basketball programs, but for its other sports, for which Gonzaga does not invest as much money. Even if Gonzaga could convince the Catholic Seven that it can relieve any concerns about expenses for its other sports, the logical step for the group to take would be to invite Gonzaga and Saint Mary's as a pair for travel reasons in league scheduling. Besides, Georgetown coach Thompson III is on the record as saying that the program would be thrilled at the idea of both Gonzaga and Saint Mary's joining the league, which means that the Gaels would be invited not just because it would ease the Catholic Seven in inviting Gonzaga, but also because of its success. Also, recall that Georgetown would like to see an invitation extended to Richmond.
In our proposal with some West Coast flavour, we perceive that the Catholic League would financially be about the same as Proposal V (Butler, Creighton, Dayton, Saint Louis, Xavier). Thus, the Catholic League under Proposal VI would above the Red Line thresholds and thus a 'major' league.
In our Proposal VII, we again include Creighton (as in Proposal V). Additionally, we seriously receive the desire of the Catholic Seven to have a presence in the Boston market. If this yearning is a higher priority for the Catholic Seven than any reason for adding Richmond or Dayton, then the group would invite Holy Cross over one of them. Finally, Saint Louis is seen as a desirable eleventh or twelfth option, particularly to serve as a traveling partner for Creighton, if necessary. Here, our proposal consists of invited programs Butler, Creighton, Holy Cross, Saint Louis, and Xavier.
A noteworthy point in our Seventh Proposal is that the average men's basketball budget figure drops below $6m. Our seventh list shows that the Catholic League would still be above the Red Line thresholds, and thus a 'major' league.
Suppose that the desire of the Catholic Seven to be in the Boston market is a top-priority item, the wish to add Richmond is higher than we might imagine, and that Xavier would like to see its long-time rival Dayton join the forthcoming league. This set of ideas constitutes our Eighth proposal.
Financially, the Proposal VIII model and the Proposal VII model are nearly identical. The overall athletics expenses figure for Richmond, which touts an excellent F.C.S. program, increases the overall athletics expenses average figure for Proposal VIII from the prior model. Should this proposal match the yet to be known membership list of the Catholic Seven, then we conclude that it is still well above the Red Line thresholds. Thus, our Proposal VIII one is a 'major' league one.
As we mentioned earlier, Mr. Feinstein recently reported in The New Haven Register that the most likely candidates to receive invitations to help charter the Catholic League, with West and East divisions, are Butler, Dayton, Saint Louis, Xavier, and either Richmond or - surprisingly - Siena. For Proposal IX, let us suppose that the Catholic Seven secure acceptances from Butler, Dayton, Richmond, Saint Louis, and Xavier.
The average figures here are again quite similar to most of the other twelve-team models. The Proposal IX model would be above the Red Line thresholds. As an aside from our exercise, we should note that if Mr. Feinstein's information regarding the thinking of the Catholic Seven is accurate, then this model is Plan A for the Catholic League. If so, then our Catholic League will not be a mid-major conference based on the Red Line definition.
Our Tenth Proposal will match Proposal IX in structure. However, we'll substitute Siena for Richmond.
The financial impact of Siena upon the Catholic League resembles that of Holy Cross. However, there exists one notable difference: the overall athletics expenses figure of Siena is significantly less than the figure of Holy Cross, probably because the latter touts a football team, albeit at the F.C.S. level. Although it is quite difficult to bring the men's basketball average figure down to the $2m. threshold in any scenario that includes the Catholic Seven members, it is possible to bring the overall athletics expenses average figure down to the $20m. threshold, as we see here with a model that includes Siena. This Proposal X model comes agonizingly close, but not close enough, to be considered a 'mid-major' one.
For Proposal XI, let us revise Proposal IX by substituting Saint Louis with Creighton.
We should point out that Creighton spends more money on men's basketball than Saint Louis. However, that figure is already hovering around $6m. in all of our proposal models, so a marginal difference in the men's basketball figures between the Bluejays and Billikens programs makes no difference for our purposes. The same can be said for the overall athletics program expenses figures: Creighton spends about a million dollars more on its athletics department than Saint Louis does, which does not help our cause. Proposal XI is further from a mid-major model than is the Proposal IX model.
Finally, we arrive at Proposal XII. Like the difference between Proposal IX and Proposal X, we shall revisit Proposal XI. Instead of Richmond, we shall substitute Siena, which will complement Butler, Creighton, Dayton, and Xavier as the additions for the Catholic Seven.
Proposal XII, like Proposal X, comes quite close to reaching one of the Red Line thresholds primarily due to Siena's low overall athletics expenses. Also like Proposal X, Proposal XII falls short. Thus, according to our definition, the Catholic League under Proposal XII would not be a mid-major league.
|The 3,500-seat McKeon Pavilion on the campus of Saint Mary's College|
may soon be host to league matches against Georgetown and Butler.
The Forecast of the Catholic League
Not long after the news broke concerning the forthcoming formation of a new league anchored by the Catholic Seven, I perused an online forum on ESPN.com to read the opinions of commenters on the matter. The article, "Butler addresses 'Catholic 7' rumor," hosted a forum on which comments were published. I saved a few quotes and their accompanying usernames, and I wish to share them here. First, an user by the name of 'MochaFlux' provided his poetic, yet darkly humorous take on future non-conference match-ups involving the Catholic Seven:
I can see it already. Every year, the Catholic [Seven] will invade a basketball holy place like Cameron [Indoor Stadium, of Duke University] or Allen Fieldhouse [University of Kansas]. We'll call it the Crusade and it will happen at the beginning of the season.
Oh[,] and it doesn't matter if the home team doesn't like it. The C7 [Catholic Seven] will be prepared to maim and slaughter anyone who turns down a visit from a C7 school. All in the name of God[,] of course.If Holy Cross does receive an invitation and does indeed accept it, then his assessment is all the more apt, given that its nickname is the Crusaders. Another user, who went by 'Daneyko,' made a great point concerning a potential, and probably inevitable, invitation from the Catholic Seven to Butler University:
Butler [University] President [James] Danko was a dean at Villanova [University]. If the invite comes, Butler's gone.
At one point, Butler was a Christian school (not Catholic)[;] the Seminary portion split off in the late [']50s and is located down the road from Butler's campus.If 'Daneyko' asked me for an educated opinion on the matter, I would certainly agree with him. The reports on the possibility of Butler not only being invited to join the forthcoming league but also accepting such an invitation consistently note that Butler will be invited and would quite likely join the league.
Finally, a user named 'Rangers' made an appropriate observation regarding the statement released by President Danko regarding Butler's stance on the forthcoming league and a plausible invitation for his University. Now, in the article in question, it is noted that "... he [Danko] issued a statement calling the rumors a 'tribute' to the Bulldogs' success and saying only that the school would 'do what is right.'" Now, 'Rangers' made a fun point:
Anybody pick up on the Mica[h] 6:8 reference here? Pretty clever, ESPN.Now, Micah 6.8 states the following, according to the Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible:
He [the LORD] has showed you, O man, what is good...We should note that 'good' can be easily translated as 'right,' which is likely what 'Rangers' means here. Now, this user did not state anything more, thus leaving this 'righteous' action unclear, perhaps even intentionally so. Is 'do what is [right]' to remain in the Atlantic 10 Conference or to accept a potential invitation to the forthcoming Catholic league - which likely means an increase in generated revenue - in which Butler may play against teams with a similar profile, like Providence or Marquette? What Butler ought to do in this situation is the decision of Butler alone, and merely a matter of speculation for those persons who have closely followed the 'Catholic Seven' developments. The mid-major fan within me hopes that the Catholic League is not formed according to the above proposals unless some of the overall athletic expenses can drop, which is unlikely to happen. Admittedly, I'm intrigued by the idea of the Catholic League should it extend invitations to Butler, Creighton, Holy Cross, Saint Louis, and Xavier, and have all five of them be accepted. This League is one I'd rather watch than the Big East Conference which is dissolving before our eyes. I had much more fun taking in a Holy Cross at Providence match last season than watching a Louisville at Notre Dame game a few weeks ago.
The decision that the Butler Bulldogs program faces is one that a handful of programs are already facing. It is a choice that must be considered, whether a pondered program is actually invited to help charter the Catholic League or not. Although Butler and Xavier are virtual locks to charter the League, according to reports over the past three months, programs such as Gonzaga, Saint Mary's, and even Dayton should still prepare as if they are going to be invited to join the forthcoming conference.
|Creighton may have a great decision to make in the near future.|
Here, I believe that Creighton would thrive whether it stays in the M.V.C. or chooses to help charter the Catholic League, despite a recent report from one M.V.C. coach following the Bluejays' 74-66 loss to Saint Mary's that "'Creighton guards no one... and are way too offensive minded.'" That assessment reminds me of one of the Catholic Seven members from a few seasons ago. The 2009-10 Providence Friars not only set the Big East Conference record for worst scoring defense at 85.3 points per game but also featured the fourth-highest scoring offense in Division I during that season at 82.4 points per game. Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon remarked at the time about that Friars team, "'They do things a little different than I'd say most teams in the Big East [Conference] do.'" However, we should note that then-Friars head coach Keno Davis was adamant that "he's far from a proponent of run-and-gun, Loyola Marymount-type basketball," a reference to the high-scoring Lions teams of the late 1980s that featured Mr. Bo Kimble and Mr. Hank Gathers. Further, the matter for Coach Davis was that "mixing his new recruits with the leftovers from the Tim Welsh regime [didn't] work, at least on defense," according to the 4 March 2010 report by Mr. Kevin McNamara of The Providence Journal.
The number that should immediately catch our attention is the points allowed per game posted by the 2009-10 Friars, as we mentioned. Although some credence exists in the words of that anonymous M.V.C. coach that the 2012-13 Creighton Bluejays "'guards no one...'", as hinted by its allowing 63.6 points per game (105th in Division I), the defense of this season's Creighton team is not nearly as atrocious as that of the 2009-10 Providence Friars, which allowed 82.2 points per game (346th in Division I that season). It should be noted, though, that the 2009-10 Friars posted more points per game than the current Bluejays have registered thus far. Yet, 75.5 and 82.4 are comparably close. As for the inclusion of the 2007-08 Drake Bulldogs, we should observe that Coach Davis has a history of coaching efficient defense to compliment the numbers of his 2009-10 Friars. However, the point of this chart is that I believe that Creighton can be competitive should it help charter the Catholic League. If the 2009-10 Friars can post the numbers that it did in the Big East Conference, then I think that a Creighton team with a similarly offensively-oriented system can thrive in the Catholic League. As the same anonymous M.V.C. coach also said concerning the 2012-13 Bluejays, "'Creighton [can win games] because so many teams cannot score.'"
Returning to the topic of whether it is wise for any of these programs to join the Catholic Seven, the same principle applies to such programs as Butler, Xavier, and Gonzaga as that used for Creighton. This season, Butler has proven that the conference in which it is a member does not define a program. The Bulldogs program was a great success in the Horizon League, and it is showing that it will remain so in the Atlantic 10 Conference. It is not the conference that defines a team. It is not an egregious and perhaps wasteful amount of expenses that ensures success. Rather, it is the persons that help operate a program (Athletic director, coaches, players, etc.) that determine the identity and fate of a given program.
Although we have shown that the forthcoming Catholic League will not be considered a mid-major conference in financial terms, and will not likely be seen as such in overall perception, it is nonetheless an intriguing story for the modern era. Through the mess that has been conference realignment, we have seen a silver lining. A group of seven programs, which happen to all be Catholic Christian in heritage and which don't tout F.B.S. teams, chose to stand up for themselves in unison in wake of the announced departures of such programs as Syracuse and Rutgers. No matter how particular university speeches or media outlets spin this realignment arc, it is about the pursuit of financial gain over academic prestige. If a school has a F.B.S. team, it is looking for financial gain, irrespective of any success or lack of success that program may have had. For programs that do not feature F.B.S. teams, this time was right to track a new course. The Big East Conference was fine for a time, but it was doomed to fail. In a 14 December 2012 report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, we were reminded by Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon why the Big East Conference added DePaul and Marquette - neither program has a F.B.S. team - as well as Cincinnati, Louisville, and South Florida (programs that do each feature a F.B.S. team).
Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese credited Pitt[sburgh] chancellor Mark Nordenberg for saving the Big East Conference in 2003 after Boston College, Miami and Virginia [Tech] left for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Nordenberg was the driving force behind the conference reconstituting itself by adding Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida, Marquette and DePaul.
Many questioned at the time why Marquette and DePaul were added as basketball-only members when football was what mattered most in conference expansion. Thursday afternoon, hours after it was reported that the seven [C]atholic schools in the Big East decided to form their own their own basketball league, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon provided some insight about why Nordenberg was so insistent on Marquette and DePaul being included.
"When [Nordenberg] fought to keep that league together one of the components was adding DePaul and Marquette," Dixon said Thursday. "People asked why DePaul and Marquette when you need to add football teams. But the reality was that was done for today. That was done so Villanova, Georgetown, St. John's Seton Hall and Providence wouldn't be left without a conference. [Emphasis added.]
"When [Marquette and DePaul] came in, it gave them seven teams. And once they stayed together for five years, they could keep the bid, keep the name and keep the money, all those things."As early as 2003, the Big East sensed that its collapse was likely inevitable. Let me be clear that I am not weeping or wistful for the demise of the Big East, unlike Mr. Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun or Mr. Andy Katz of ESPN.com. On the contrary, I'm titillated by the idea of a group of basketball-oriented, academically-excellent institutions which happen to have a Christian heritage - Roman Catholic or Protestant - forming a fresh, new league without the memories having to die. I'm sad for anyone I know that enjoyed the Big East Conference, though. I understand that this league was a joy for fans of Georgetown and Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Connecticut, and so on. As Mr. Katz aptly stated regarding the fate of the Big East, "What we grew to know is no more." Still, I am convinced that the looming Catholic League will be respectable in its own right, and will be fun to watch, irrespective of financial figures or any sort of void left by Syracuse or Connecticut.
According to a 27 February 2013 release from the Chicago Tribune (membership required), the athletic directors of DePaul and Marquette remain optimistic that a separation deal will be reached with the Big East Conference soon. Whether the Catholic League would begin play for the 2013-14 season or the 2014-15 season remains to be seen at this time, although I've heard that the latter is more likely. Although I'd like the status quo to remain, which includes Creighton remaining a national force while being in the M.V.C. and Gonzaga and Saint Mary's continuing to make the W.C.C. proud to have them, I understand that it is sadly inevitable that programs will choose to be "poached." Despite my stance as a mid-major fan, I'm thankful for the Catholic League, because it will feature the Catholic Seven, a group of seven basketball-centric programs, and a handful of programs that have left me filled with joy at being a mid-major fan due to their success. The Catholic League is the silver lining for a confused college basketball fan lost in the manufactured sea of unnecessary confusion that has been conference realignment.
I greatly and patiently anticipate the arrival of this wonderful new Catholic League, no matter which teams choose to help charter it. I hope that the rest of the country is excitedly
preparing for it as well.
UPDATE (1 Mar. 2013, 12.00am): In a hilarious coincidence, a special report from ESPN.com was published about twelve hours after the release of this article, which indicates the following regarding the Catholic Seven and the forthcoming league:
The Big East's seven departing Catholic schools are expected to start their own league next season and will keep the Big East Conference name, sources told ESPN's Brett McMurphy, Andy Katz and Dana O'Neil.
Joining the Catholic 7 schools -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, and Villanova -- in the new "Big East" this fall will be Xavier and Butler, sources said.
As I had projected based on a number of reports, Butler and Xavier not only will be invited to charter the Catholic League, but will also accept those invitations and thus leave the Atlantic 10 Conference. The league will officially begin operations on 1 July 2013, a few years earlier than had initially been thought by a number of reports. Now, we'll recall that the Catholic Seven desires to form a ten-team league, if not a twelve-team league. According to this significant report,
Creighton has emerged as the favorite to become the 10th team, and would also join next season, according to sources.
While Butler, Xavier and, most likely, Creighton are expected to join the new Big East this fall, the Catholic 7 schools are also expected to add Dayton and St. Louis in 2014 for a 12-team league.
I had projected that Creighton would ultimately be preferred as a tenth member of the Catholic League over such programs as Richmond, despite the lobbying of Georgetown for the Spiders, and Siena. Apparently, while I do not doubt the initial wish of the Catholic Seven to have a presence in the Boston market, I'd surmise that the group is less concerned with inviting Holy Cross for that purpose than inviting programs like Creighton, Dayton, and Saint Louis. Also, since Butler is planning to join the Catholic League, we can observe that Detroit-Mercy will not be invited to charter this League.
Other details in the report worth mentioning include the following: the Catholic Seven will keep the 'Big East Conference' name, much to my dismay; Notre Dame could play in the league during its first season should the A.C.C. not permit the Fighting Irish program to enter it until after the 2013-14 season; the Catholic Seven is still seeking its first commissioner; and the Catholic Seven is expecting "to play 18 league games in its inaugural season."
I'm actually thrilled that my projection for the Catholic League, barring anything unexpected, is in line with the thinking of the Catholic Seven. Since the Catholic Seven is looking to invite Butler, Creighton, Dayton, Saint Louis, and Xavier to help charter the League, we can expect the League to follow my Proposal V model (I've reprinted it to the right, for the sake of convenience). As we observed before, the Proposal V model suggests a League that will not be a (financially) mid-major league.
Recall that Creighton, should it be invited to charter the Catholic League (which seems inevitable at this time), would quite likely leave the M.V.C. for the League. As of this evening, Creighton officials are remaining mum on the reports that the Bluejays program is seriously being considered as the tenth member of the Catholic League. I strongly believe that Creighton will be invited to join the League and will say yes to that invitation.
Now that we know the proposed look of the Catholic League according to the ESPN.com special report, I took the liberty of analyzing thirteen years' worth of the statistics pertaining to the twelve programs that constitute our Proposal V (see table above). From a recent-historical perspective, this league is fairly formidable.
The average cumulative winning percentage of the Catholic League (our Proposal V model) is approximately 61 percent, which is a very great number. Also acceptable is the average R.P.I. rating for the League over the past thirteen seasons, which is 73. Since we know this figure, we can also observe that should we loosely value the League by R.P.I. rating, the League is having a terrific season (66). Another constant is the unfortunate ineptitude of the DePaul Blue Demons program, which was once considered a national powerhouse. DePaul, which has a winning percentage of about 42 percent over the past thirteen season, has not only the lowest average R.P.I. rating over that frame of time (143), but also the lowest R.P.I. rating of the League this season (180). Concerning winning percentages over the past thirteen seasons, the three best figures in descending order are Butler (73%), Xavier (72%), and Creighton (70%). Although I didn't attach a column containing the respective average strength-of-schedule (S.O.S.) numbers over the past thirteen seasons, I can report that the S.O.S. figures for the three programs are respectable. The Catholic Seven has acknowledged the excellence of the programs now, their pedigree in the sport, and their passion to be outstanding programs by wishing to invite them to help charter the Catholic League (the League is keeping the 'Big East Conference' name, but it is chartering a new conference). Again, as I wrote in the original release of this article, I anticipate the genesis of our Catholic League, even if I am a mid-major fan.