Danko, Big East officials positive about Butler’s move

In March 2012, the Butler community was wondering if the school would move to the Atlantic 10 Conference and, if so, when it would occur.

Butler officials did not keep students, faculty, staff and other supporters waiting long when another opportunity to change athletic conferences came about this year.

Butler President James Danko announced Butler’s acceptance of an invitation to the new Big East via a pre-recorded video yesterday.

Butler will officially become a conference member July 1.

The clip was played before a small, but excited crowd of Butler community members mixed with Indianapolis media members.

“Today, a new chapter is written (in Butler history),” Danko said. “This unprecedented opportunity will match Butler with a group of schools that represent an ideal fit for our university, both academically and athletically.”

Viewers were then treated to a live look-in of the Big East’s press conference in New York City, where Danko and Barry Collier, Butler vice president of athletics, were present.

Danko was the first of 10 school presidents introduced by sports commentator Gus Johnson prior to the start of the press conference.

In addition to Danko and the presidents of the ‘Catholic 7’ schools from the current Big East, Xavier University and Creighton University’s presidents were also present at the conference, signaling the schools’ decision to join the new Big East as well.

Providence College President Father Brian Shanley said he and the other Catholic 7 presidents were thrilled to offer invitations to Butler, Xavier and Creighton.

“You have great academic traditions, you have great leadership in your athletic departments in your commitment to student-athletes, and you play some really good basketball,” Shanley said of the three invitees.

Xavier, like Butler, will be departing from the A-10. Creighton will be coming over from the Missouri Valley Conference.

Butler is the only university in the 10-school conference that is not recognized as a Catholic school. Shanley said the Big East was never intended to be an all-Catholic conference, joking that Butler was not invited to join because it would be the “token non-Catholic school.”

Butler is departing the A-10 after a single academic year in the conference. The university will remain part of the conference through the rest of the 2012-13 school year.

Media reports have suggested Butler could have to pay as much as $2 million to the A-10 as an exit fee.

Danko said in a conference call that Butler has submitted a letter stating its intentions to the A-10 and that the school will now enter into a legal settlement with A-10 officials to discuss an exit fee.

The idea of staying in the A-10 for another year before switching athletic conferences yet again was something Danko said he and other Butler officials definitely thought about before accepting the Big East’s invite.

“The downside of waiting another year is that you’re not sure the opportunity is going to be there in a year,” Danko said. “It was such a compelling opportunity for us. You consider it, and you weigh the costs and benefits.”

Danko did not say when Butler was first contacted about potentially joining the Big East. However, Creighton President Father Timothy Lannon said he was first contacted Feb. 27 and that Creighton was officially given an invite on March 13.

An enticing benefit for any school considering joining the new Big East was FOX Sports 1 offering the conference a large television deal.

Georgetown President Dr. John DeGioia said during the press conference that the proposed 12-year, $500 million deal had been accepted by the new Big East schools. Randy Freer, FOX Sports co-president and COO, said the deal extends beyond covering men’s basketball, adding that FOX Sports 1 looks forward to covering such sports as women’s basketball, lacrosse and baseball.

“Despite the many successes we have achieved in such a short amount of time, we still have a great deal of work to do in this coming year,” DeGioia said.

One thing conference members must decide on is a commissioner. DeGioia said the Big East will receive assistance from Russell Reynolds Associates, a senior executive search firm, in finding a new commissioner.

The Big East will also receive the services of Dan Beebe, former Ohio Valley Conference and Big 12 Conference commissioner. DeGioia said Beebe will work with athletic directors to help ensure all new Big East schools are prepared for fall athletic competition later this year.

DeGioia said that, while negotiations amongst member universities are ongoing, the Big East expects to continue sponsoring all of the sports it currently does. He said the Big East may have to recruit and accept associate members for some sports, such as rowing, lacrosse and field hockey.

Butler’s men’s lacrosse club team has proven fairly popular on campus in recent years despite being dropped as a school-sponsored sport in 2007.

The Big East will consist of 10 schools for the next academic year, but Shanley did not rule out the possibility of more schools being invited down the line.

“For now, we’re very happy at 10 and we’ll see what happens going forward,” Shanley said. “We’ve discussed actively a number of schools that are really strong potential partners for us. We also believe the landscape of college sports has not stopped morphing.”

Danko said observers have to remember that, while extra revenue will be coming in to the university as a result of the move, the university’s expenses will also grow.

As reported in “After one season in the Atlantic 10, is Butler packing up and moving on?” in The Collegian’s March 6 issue, Butler’s 2011-12 athletic budget of $14.7 million was less than half the athletic budgets at three Big East schools.

“We realize our budget relative to some of the other schools is not at the same level,” Danko said. “It’s a matter of trying to be very disciplined about how we allocate our resources, having many internal conversations with our CFO and our athletic department and with our trustees.”

Come July, Butler will be part of a basketball-centric, student-centered conference, Shanley said.

“What we celebrate today and relaunch today is the work of (first-ever Big East commissioner) Dave Gavitt,” Shanley said. “If we didn’t get together and form a conference that was basketball-centric, that was located in the best media markets, that played at the highest level, we would be left behind.”

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