Big East still has big plans

When Plan A, Plan B and Plan C don’t work, what do you do? If you are the  Big East and faced with a monumental problem in structuring, marketing and perception and when you must live with the fact that you turned down a financial package that would have almost guaranteed your future for the forseeable future, you go outside the box.

Which is what Big East commissioner Mike Aresco is working on as he puts together new television packages in football and basketball.

In a move which might be perceived some as a major setback, the Big East is seriously considering an offer from NBC that is light financially, but filled with opportunities for the future.

Do not be surprised if the Big East accepts a low ball NBC 6-year offer of between 20 and 23 million dollars a year in the next few weeks.

At first glance, it appears to be another major blow for the  Big East.

The league which had a very hard and lucrative 10 year, 155 million a year offer from ESPN for a 12 team football league less than 2 years ago,  considering an offer that will pay between 20 and 23 million per year for FOOTBALL AND  BASKETBALL from NBC?

Ridiculous? Maybe.

If you look back 18 months to when the Big East turned down ESPN, you could find all sorts of bad guys in a saga of saga of miscalculation?

It’s easy to blame John Marinatto, the  former Big East commissioner who was the point man for the negotiations when the offer by ESPN  was rejected.

But that’s too simple.

Marinatto’s moves were dictated by the Presidents, particularly those at Pittsburgh and Georgetown, who were his prime backers when he was selected to replace former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese. Both argued strongly that the ESPN offer could be and would be topped by outlets such as NBC and Fox, who were desperate for programming.

The theory was that since the  Big East was the only available BCS league without a long-term television deal, it would be a seller’s market. The Big East was the only game in time. That was the argument Marinatto was using, even though his inclination was to take the ESPN deal and run and run with it.

Throw in West Virginia, Rutgers and Notre Dame as other conspirators in the move away from ESPN and you have the ring leaders. Add former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue who was a consultant also arguing that expanding to other networks and other parts of the country were better and you have the major players pulling the strings behind the curtain.

But it gets better. Consider the schools that were yelling the loudest to turn down a deal which would have given each school approximately 13 million per year, which was 10 million more per year than the current Big East football contract, which has one year remaining.

Pittsburgh,  West Virginia, Rutgers and Notre Dame. All have left or leaving the  Big East.

So we move the clock forward about 18 months and the Big East is what?

Split apart in football by various defections, torn apart in basketball by the defection of the Catholic 7 as well as Notre Dame.

Aresco  has been called lots of things, by lots of people. But it’s hardly his fault. He came in to major gun battle with a sling shot.  He never had a real chance to make things right.

But he is working hard to put the best product together. And this one might work.

What he is going to do is turn back the clock to 1979 when ESPN was beginning and looking for programming for its outlet and found a new league called the Big East.

Don’t be stunned, or even surprised, if the Big East makes the same deal in terms of exposure and promotion with NBC, which has a fledgling cable sports network and is desperate for programming.

Right now,  the  Big East basketball does not have a television contract for next season when it will still be full powered with 18 teams including Louisville, Notre Dame, Rutgers and the Catholic 7, will be available. The current contract with ESPN and CBS runs out after this season.

So next year look for  Big Monday to be  on NBC cable. Look for the Big East tournament to be on NBC and NBC cable. Prime time exposure with prime time teams, a great starting point for a new network needing exposure.

In two years, when the Catholic 7 leave and Rutgers and Louisville head to the Big Ten and ACC, the football deal will kick in.

Look for NBC cable having a Big East game of the Week each Saturday. Look for prime time non-conference games such as a UConn-Michigan showing up on the main NBC network when Notre Dame is not playing at home.

Look for promotion and more promotion.

But what about the money? Or lack of it. At first, it will be very low. But it’s not a long-term deal. There will be “look in’s” clauses  every couple of years. If takes off, the deal will be re-done for more money.

This could really work..

The Catholic 7–again led by Georgetown–will take their balls and sign a long-term deal with Fox to start their own 10 or 12 team play group, beginning in the fall of 2014. Maybe they will invite Xavier, Butler, St. Louis, Dayton, Creighton, VCU or Richmond or any combination that brings the total to 12.

The current Big East will emerge as a 10 team football league without a true dominant Top 10 contender on a consistent basis. It will be part of the non-BCS pack.

But it will have potential to get bigger and better. And it will have NBC promoting and cross promoting.

ESPN can still bid on the Big East, but the odds favor NBC. Aresco might be even able to sell some other Big East events to other networks to get some extra revenue, but NBC will be the prime time player.

The Big East will also have the Big East name–lots of luck or lots and lots of money for the Catholic 7 to get the name at this point.

The deal is not officially done yet, but its close and it really could work.

The Big East dead? Not so fast.

© 2013, Mark. All rights reserved.

  26 comments for “Big East still has big plans

  1. June 2, 2014 at 2:38 am

    Hello! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would
    be okay. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

  2. White Dog 777
    February 14, 2013 at 8:15 am

    I am all for an all sports Big East. Admittedly the Bball only schools caused problems. However, now that the shrimpy NBC offer has been revealed and supposedly the C-7/12 TV deal is rumored to be 5 Million per team, I’m curious why noone has mentioned a merger between the Big East all-sports/football schools and the best of the A-10. Here is my rational:

    1. RI, LaSalle, George Washington, Fordham, UMASS, Richmond, VCU and Charlotte are quality replacements skill and marketwise. The C-7 are rumored to be going after Creighton, Dayton, Butler, Xavier and St. Louis.
    2. It seems that the current 40 Million A-10 contract would be relatively easy to beat based on
    reported C-7 Fox deal. I would think remaining A-10 teams might embrace a merger.
    3. This keeps a rich basketball heritage in Big East, enhancing a Madison Square Garden League Championship
    4. Rekindle some old UCONN rivalry’s with RI and UMASS in New England

    I am just surprised that again in light of the Crappy TV deal why no one has suggested going back to the old big East Model with the aforementioned A-10 teams. If the C-7 did not choose to exit, we would be living with the model anyway. The football Big East is decent quality. The basketball side took the biggest hit.

    • SJGMoney
      February 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      You’re for an all sports-Big East but then go against that by having the non-football schools in it. Screw that idea. Go all sports but if you don’t play Big Boy football then we are not interested. Have an East Coast biased league with teams from Boston to Miami. I would work double OT to try and convince Nova and Gtown to stay and commit to big time football and not saddle themselves with Seton Hall etc. If not, then after adding UMass you need to add East Carolina (or Charlotte), ODU (or Richmond) and maybe even Delaware. Take a step back to build up 3 steps further. Focus like the B1G on TV markets and forget everything else. Regional matchups up and down the east coast, that is something NBC could build on.

      From North to South:
      East Carolina/Charlotte

      Yes right now this league is weaker but you can’t compare it to one that no longer exists. In a few years these teams should be superior to the weak Big East teams and all playing big boy football.

  3. Chris Columbo
    February 13, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Big East going down a hapless path with their negotiations. They have one good asset right now and that is Big East basketball for the next two seasons as it will still have a lot of high quality teams. They need to settle that deal for top dollar, which is possible. They will still have Louisville, ND, C7, UConn, Cincinnati, Temple and Memphis. That is a lot of desirable content. If the c7 is getting 40 million a year alone, that contract should be worth something comparable. Granted it is for only a couple of years but it is something that is sound. Do the deal with ESPN to keep continuity of the Brand.

    The next step is to quickly settle the c7. the longer this persists the more bad press. If Aresco plays his cards right he can get the administrative cost of the league split between the two entities and they can reconfigure the minor sports in a way to meet AQ conditions. Split the moneys in the till prorata and set a date for the split off to occur. Don’t get into a court battle over the Big East name.

    Then when all this is done work on the football. That will be easier and cleaner to negotiate without all the side show going on. It is likely they wont get top dollar for football early on, so do a short term deal and renegotiate when conditions improve and you get the 12th team and a league championship etc.

    The method they are employing is a slow agonizing death and only benefits the likes of NBC who are looking for a cheap filler product.

  4. February 13, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Since no other conference has offered to take the big east teams remaining, the big east has a responsibility to do the best it can for its members. Sure other conferences may make more but if no one else is offering a better deal then take what is on the table. Just don’t make the same mistake again as there definitely won’t be two birds in the bush.

    I wish the big east well.

  5. Hersheysnow
    February 13, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Please end all this now. 64 teams in 8 conferences. Leave the other remaining schools to go form their own new division.

  6. Duke
    February 13, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I think that the jersey guy is on to something.Give the new BE a chance. Let the catholic schools depart without the name. How many of them have a strong BB program. UCONN/CINCY have stronger BB programs. I welcome the new members to the BigEast. They are doing much to improve their facilities. Give them a chance to prove themselves. I believe that the league will evenual receive more money. Let’s get back to the main purpose of college, academics.

  7. m
    February 13, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    “That was the argument Marinatto was using, even though his inclination was to take the ESPN deal and run and run with it.”

    There are a lot of parties to blame for turning down ESPN, but Marinatto is not one of them. The sentence underestimates what happened. Marinatto actually lobbied hard for the presidents to take the offer but was shot down.

    Pitt was the main driver in denying the deal and then bolted soon after.

  8. MiamiCoog
    February 13, 2013 at 11:36 am

    I am a Houston fan and I can’t see how this can be spun to say this is not such a bad deal. How do you convince UConn, Cincy, and the existing members to take LESS money and it MIGHT be best in the long run? This is a low risk investment for NBC. How can a network, hungry for content and trying to get into the game, have such a low ball offer? Is the Catholic 7 more valuable than the remaining football members? C-USA currently pays out $2-$3 mill per team, which includes UAB, UTEP, etc. Shouldn’t the nBE be worth more?

    I’m sorry….this cannot be good for the long term survival of the conference. The next realignment round will be the final nail in the coffin.

  9. SJGMoney
    February 13, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Only one problem with this “partnership” with NBC Sports and all it’s great future programming ideas: ESPN has right of first refusal and for such short money $20 mill a year they will match and not bother with any of that feature game crap, cross promotion etc. The number is so small it’s a rounding error for ESPN and a no brainer to exercise their option.

    • Mark
      February 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm

      ESPN does not have right of first refusal. The wording is that the Big East is obligated to tell ESPN the deal and allow them to make an offer. But the Big east has the right to say no and choose who it wants.

      • SJGMoney
        February 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm

        My mistake then because I thought I had read other reports that stated the right of refusal option. Great deal for NBC Sports then, lots of programming cheap.

      • js
        February 13, 2013 at 3:49 pm


        Do you think the price could go up for these schools if ESPN makes an offer for more money. Could NBC go to 3 million per school? The total value seems very low considering that there are still some solid brands in play.

  10. nickp
    February 13, 2013 at 11:02 am

    The Big East has been heritage programming for ESPN dating back to its infancy The Big East was a made-for-TV league

  11. Big Shot Bob
    February 13, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Wow New jersey college basketball fans are really prepared for future seasons. Seton Hall-Rutgers game last night draws just over 5000 people. Just wait for the big catholic league battles like Depaul-Seton Hall or Providence- St.Johns? By the way, will they let non-catholics attend these games in order to try to boost interest/attendance? No wonder TV networks are getting cold feet on both of these new league setups, since few actually go to the games.

  12. Guy
    February 12, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    UConn, Cincy and Temple should try to join the Catholic 7. UConn and Cincy could vote with the Catholic schools to dissolve the conference. It would be a fitting and respectful end.

    The new Big East is an insult to the history of a joke, hybrid conference. That’s pretty bad folks.

    • C.P
      February 18, 2013 at 11:31 pm

      a great idea but i dont think the C7 want anything to do with schools that play football…too bad because it would greatly improve the C7

  13. RudyMass
    February 12, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    If the real Big East couldn’t move the needle for SNY, why in the world would the JV Big East do anything for NBCSN? It defies logic. Agree with Chris Columbo…best path for UConn and Cincy is independence. Same for Temple, actually.

  14. Joe Crum
    February 12, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    Why you continue to be a stooge for the Big East is beyond me. Oh, I forgot, UConn is part of that mess and you owe Jimmy a few favors

  15. Guy
    February 12, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Oh my God.

    What a joke this conference continues to be with every new story. The Big East will turn back the clock, take a low ball offer for more exposure, help NBC gain college sports content and watch the network pay huge money to bigger conferences big time money to show their programming and that leaves the Big East where in 6 LONG years?

    The same place it is now, screwed and getting low balled by NBC and ESPN not wanting anything to do with a second rate conference.

    Mike Aresco is not to blame for the idiots who turned down the original ESPN deal, but the man has been an absolute disaster since taking the job. This plan is absolutely ridiculous. Help NBC like you helped ESPN and hope for a different ending with CUSA schools? Mike Aresco, please have the self respect to quit.

  16. Chris Columbo
    February 12, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    Let’s assume for second the reported figures are correct. That is the Big East TV rights are being sold for 23 million annually for all sports (including badminton as Mr. SJGMoney pointed out in another string) . If that is the case it could be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. If your the C7 you realize the residual Big East is very weak, and you can go ahead and dissolve the conference and can exit quicker. Everyone gets their shares of cash in the till and the Big East name goes up for auction, which the c7 can buy for a 70 discount( in that they get 70 percent of the proceeds from the sale). If your U Conn and Cincy, you let the C7 go ahead and liquidate the conference, you assume interdependent status for a few years until you get picked up by a legit conference. U Conn can get a better deal on its own. Cincy is upgrading their football stadium etc and thus is only a few years away from being a Big 12 add on. if your Temple, USF,UCF, Tulane, East Carolina , Memphis and the Texas crowd you like the deal because it is better than you could get on your own or through the Conference USA. Although in USF’s case they thought they deserved better. I actually agree with Mr. RudyMass’s concept above though, as the fundamental rule of advertising is not to push a bad product. The underlying theme of this deal ,as is described,is by aligning with NBC for peanuts your going to get a lot of free PR and build a brand again. That only works if your product is sound. If the product is not good, then you drive people away for a long time. What is missing is that the schools actually need the money to stay competitive and without it their product will decay.

    • Joker
      February 13, 2013 at 9:07 am

      C7 can’t dissolve the conference. Read Mark’s articles from a month back.

  17. RudyMass
    February 12, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Yup, and Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin and Pearl Washington are ready to enroll at Tulane, Central Florida and SMU respectively to launch the new Big East. Get real. When you promote horseshit all you do is attract more flies.

    • Guy
      February 12, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      Rudy, you’re right.

      What a joke! If the schools have any, ANY opportunity to leave this pile of steaming crap they will. What is this, Obamanomics? Make less and be better off.


    • Joker
      February 13, 2013 at 9:06 am

      Ewing, Mullin and Pearl didn’t enroll at PC and Seton Hall either. There are top guys in the NBA right now that went to UConn and Memphis. We’ll see how Cincy and Temple ramp up. I have doubts about Houston, but we’ll see if they can return to their SWC days.

  18. ouch
    February 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    it still hurts – thanks for the update, but wow this is tough to swallow

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