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Perhaps Big East refugees should seek corporate sponsor for new name

Under Armour might be a good fit for remaining Big East schools hoping to establish a strong brand

Matt Murschel

College Insider

5:59 PM EDT, March 10, 2013

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What's in a name?

For the schools of the Catholic 7 — Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette and DePaul — it's everything.

With no maiden name to fall back on, the Catholic 7 members were forced to do the next best thing, which was buy the Big East name and with it, the brand as well.

Think of it as the same great Big East taste without all of those football calories dragging you down.

And for the mere sum of $110 million, the seven schools bought their freedom, name recognition and the house in which they have lived since 1983 — Madison Square Garden — to host the Big East basketball tournament.

That leaves the remaining members of the league formerly known as the Big East — Connecticut, Cincinnati, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, SMU, Temple, UCF and USF — a conference without a name, left to wander the world in search of justice for all ... oh, wait.

Yet, those remaining Big East members won't be without a name for very long. Reports surfaced late last week that officials were considering names including the America 12 Conference, which was reportedly the early favorite among league officials.

For a group that essentially is a mutt of the college landscape, a name represents more than something to be called by. It's also a brand.

According to sports marketing expert Bill Sutton, the remaining members of the Big East form two groups: one that had brand equity in Conference USA and one that left Conference USA looking to buy into the Big East brand.

"A group that lost a brand and a group that is searching for a brand," said Sutton, who is director of the USF Sport & Entertainment Management program. "And now they are both in search of a brand."

Rebranding can be crucial for the success of a product.

Take Coca-Cola, for example. Back in 1985, they thought changing the formula of their soft drink and marketing it as New Coke would do wonders for sales. It did not.

How about something geographic for the Big East?

"It really doesn't matter anymore because we are past that," Sutton said when asked about it. "Conferences really aren't geographical anymore."

Missouri in the SEC and Colorado in the Pac-12 still leave many scratching their heads.

Forget the numbers game as well, especially with the ever-changing college landscape. So, the Big 12 has 10 members, but the Big Ten now has 12 schools and will have 14 starting in 2014.

Huh?

The Big East itself will grow in the coming years with the addition of East Carolina, Tulane and Navy.

What's a conference to do?

How about corporate sponsorship?

"Everything has a price, so yeah, I can see that," said Sutton, who believes we aren't far off from seeing something like it in the future.

How about the Under Armour Conference? It has a nice ring to it, according to Sutton, who could see a company like Under Armour approach a conference of schools with an offer to provide free uniforms for all their sports teams while also paying each school a lump sum of $3 million to $5 million.

"To me, that's a good investment," Sutton said, pointing out that every time the league is mentioned in the press, the company would be mentioned as well.

Either way, what the remaining Big East members need is something new, something fresh, something that sets them apart from all the other leagues.

Is it too late for the New Big East?

mmurschel@tribune.com

The price of being Johnny Football

Johnny Manziel may know how to escape the grasps of some of the Southeastern Conference's most fierce defenses, but dealing with the high price of fame is another thing. According to ESPN's Darren Rovell, a Texas-based trading card — Leaf Trading Cards — has been inserting special autographed cards that feature the Texas A&M quarterback into its packs. While the company admits no wrong-doing, it did admit that Manziel, Texas A&M and the NCAA did not approve the move. The ESPN report goes on to say the signatures were obtained without Manziel knowing how they were being used. Perhaps it would benefit Manziel to change his major to copyright law.

March Madness and music

Dave Matthews Band, Sting, Flo Rida, Muse and Ludacris will headline the NCAA's free annual music festival — The Big Dance Concert Series — held in conjunction with the men's NCAA Final Four at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta from April 5-7. Muse, Flo Rida, Maclemore & Ryan Lewis and Ludacris will perform on the CokeZero Countdown Stage Saturday, April 6, while Dave Matthews Band, Sting and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals will perform at the Capital One Jam Fest Sunday, April 7.

Most powerful people in college sports

Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive headlined Sports Illustrated's Ten Most Powerful People in College Sports list on its website last week. According to SI.com, Slive barely edged Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany for the top spot on the list. NCAA President Mark Emmert was third followed by former UCLA star Ed O'Bannon, ESPN senior vice president for college sports programming Burke Magnus, Fox Sports co-president and COO Eric Shanks, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, Texas athletics director DeLoss Dodds, agent Jimmy Sexton and senior coordinating producer of ESPN's GameDay Lee Fitting.

Fox Sports 1 to highlight college sports

Fox Sports Media Group unveiled plans last week for its new national sports network, which it hopes will compete head-to-head with ESPN and NBC Sports. The network will rebrand its Speed TV channel into Fox Sports 1 starting in August, with plans to do a similar transformation of FUEL TV. The new channel is expected to feature a cavalcade of sports programming including NASCAR, Major League Baseball, soccer and UFC as well as college basketball and football. The Pac-12, Big 12 and Conference USA will highlight some of the channel's live coverage, including the Big Ten and Pac-12 Championship games.

On the web

For more college football news, head over to our blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/collegegridiron. You can like us at Facebook.com/collegegridiron 365 or add me on Google +. Follow us on Twitter at @osmattmurschel and @gridiron365.