I've long been a believer that it never made financial sense for either sides of the Big East (football members or Catholics) to split, but these latest circumstances are much different. The A-10 comparisons aren't valid - a league with Georgetown, Villanova and St. John's is going to draw much more interest from the TV networks.
IMHO, JPSchmack has it backwards. The football-playing schools have never been able to justify splitting from the Catholic schools at all financially, which is why the hybrid has continued on and on. Up to this point, both the football schools and Catholic schools needed each other together to draw out maximum TV value. Now, though, the balance of TV value has tipped in favor of the Catholic schools. They have the best TV markets. They have the traditional brand names. They have the perception of being "power schools" within their sphere of basketball as opposed to being "non-contract schools" for the Big East football members. The Catholic schools have much more leverage in comparison now.
The mistake a lot of people make is in believing that football *in and of itself* is the be all end all, when the reality is that there is only a small percentage of football schools that bring in outsized TV value. As a result, the fact that a group of not-very-valuable schools that happens to play FBS football doesn't automatically trump the value of a league made of strong basketball brand names such as Georgetown, Villanova, etc.
I respectfully disagree with some of what you said for a couple of reasons:
First, while Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova are more attractive to TV than the football-first C-USA/MWC schools; conference affiliation is a two-way street. It's not simply "what does this school bring to the conference" but "what do the conference and school bring each other." Lots of the value of Nova/GT/SJU stems from being in the Big East WITH Syracuse, Pitt, West Virginia, Notre Dame, UConn, etc.
The value of playing those guys who left (or are leaving) is gone. The value of being in one of the best conferences in the country is gone. The value of the TV deal is also a two-way street. With ESPN telling everyone the Big East was so great and not mentioning the A-10, it became self-fulfilling. Recruits saw it and went to the Big East. Same with the SEC, Big Ten, etc. The Pac-10 had the biggest performance drought in their history when ESPN cut bait on them and went with the WCC instead? The Big West had Final Four teams when they were on Big Monday back in the 90s.
ESPN will go with football, because the quality of product for regular season basketball doesn't really matter all that much. ESPN creates the quality by only showing highlights from games they have TV rights to on SportsCenter, making recruits think those are the only schools that exist.
The ratings for college basketball in New York, Philly and DC aren't significant enough for ESPN to maintain their level of investment in the Catholic Schools. They can drop the "Catholic Half" of the Big East, put more ACC and Big Ten games on and call it a day. Especially with UConn, Syracuse, Maryland and Rutgers playing Duke, UNC, Michigan St, Indiana and Ohio State in conference now.
Football gets ratings because every game effects the title picture (a myth people believe), there's little TV competition for Saturdays, where as basketball has NOV-MAR every night of the week, tons of games on. It's not "EVENT" television like football.
Football *in and of itself* is not the be all end all.
But the demand for TV rights of football is still higher. The schools that play big time football have more money and are therefore usually better. The Big East hoops only schools get the publicity those football schools get. The A-10 does not. The basketball schools are worried that without football, they don't get that publicity any more and become like the A-10.
The A-10 is really good basketball that is just fine as a conference. But they don't get the respect they deserve. ESPN CONSTANTLY says things like "The A-10 is really good, they could be a multi-bid league this year. Maybe even three!" as backhanded compliments. The A-10 AVERAGES three bids, and has gotten 5 bids more often than they've gotten 1 bid. They've been better than the Pac-10 for about five years now… AND NO ONE KNOWS IT.
That's the fear of the basketball schools.
If ESPN wants basketball to split off and guarantees a contract? It'll happen.
If Football leaves, it'll happen (But football realizes they are C-USA without GT/Nova/Marq/SJU)
It's co-dependence. The basketball schools -- even with "the power" -- simply won't leave. It's financial suicide.