By Mark Blaudschun
Another college football season is a less than a month from starting and the Big East is again approaching a crisis mode.
Oh, it’s not the survival issue involving defections and raids by other conferences that was the main focal point of a year ago. It’s about direction and leadership.
The Big East has no commissioner and an expiring television contract. A new commissioner could be in place by Sept. 1 and a new television football contract could be ready to go by Thanksgiving, if not sooner.
At least that’s the hope of the people in the conference headquarters in Providence and in the offices of Big East presidents across the country.
Here’s the problem. Before the Big East can seriously discuss a new television contract with anyone, it wants to have a new commissioner in place. Joe Bailey has done a nice job of settling things down following the turmoil created in the final days of Commissioner John Marinatto’s reign, but Bailey made it clear from the start that his role as Interim Commissioner would be a summer job only. Bailey wants to be doing something other than looking at television contract offers on Labor Day.
In a perfect world, the list of candidates–which Bailey said is down to 5–would be easily cut down to 1, with the prize being a $1 million a year job to run a conference that next summer will be more like Conference USA in terms of geographical footprints, ranging from San Diego to Providence and from Orlando to Boise.
Critics could suggest the new Big East with its 12-team football set up will be more like Conference USA in terms of BCS bowl quality programs.
But the skies have not been sunny and clear over the Big East offices for years now and the commissioner search is no exception. It seems that some of the finalists the Big East presidents have focused on may have to be convinced to take the job, while some they may passing over and who are more than qualified, were eager to take the job and may not even be asked.
Names are still floating around, but nothing official, of course, which is entirely the way it should be done. Current Big East officials such as senior associate commissioner Nick Carparelli and associate commissioner Tom Odjakjian are qualified and interested, but word has it the Presidents want to go outside the Big East offices.
Fine. Pac-12 Deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg, who was in the mix when the Big East was looking for a replacement for Commissioner Mike Tranghese a few years ago, is a person of interest to the Big East presidents, but how much is uncertain. Weiberg, who is putting together the Pa-12 television network and did the same thing at the Big Ten as well as running the Big 12 for several years as commissioner would be another home run.
There also is reportedly interest in someone from major league baseball which is probably Tim Brosnan, executive vice president, Business, who has Big East ties (Georgetown) and in Washington and New York. But he makes far in excess of the $1 million being offered and he may have to be convinced to take a pay cut for the honor of running a conference whose future is hardly secure.
The bottom line to all of this is that getting someone in place by Sept. 1 may be a tight race, which is a problem since the Big East’s exclusive 60-day talks with ESPN are scheduled to begin on that date. Sources familiar with the process says the Big East is more than likely to ask for an extension on those talks, with the clock not starting until a new commissioner is not only in the house, but up to speed.
ESPN is not expected to offer the Big East much more–if that– than the $1 billion (over 9 years) deal it offered—and was turned down by the Big East.
The Big East’s best chances remain with NBC/Comcast, which is looking for a college football outlet. Big East officials are hoping they can get a deal similar to the one ESPN made with the ACC, whose schools will receive slightly more than $17 million a year with the new pact.
If the Big East can get that for its teams, it would be a major boost for the league and the new commissioner whoever that may be.
© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.