If you clear away the rhetoric and the rants about what the Big East did or did not do over the past few years, you deal with a stark case of reality.
The offer that Big East commissioner Mike Aresco has on the table from NBC right now is probably the best he can get.
No, it’s not 155 million over 10 years, which the Big East foolishly turned down 18 months ago. But it is an offer and it is a plan to do something different. Or at least new.
NBC and the Big East need each other right now. NBC needs programming for its cable outlet. The Big East needs a place where it is not tossed into the also-ran bin.
Sure, the Big East and ESPN have a long and historic and profitable history, dating back to the birth of both entities in 1979. But ESPN has grown and the Big East has expanded and then shrunk and changed significantly.
Even Aresco concedes it is not the same conference that existed when he took over in September.
So what are the choices?
Stick your head in the ground and grouse about the unfairness of the world of college athletics where the strong devour the weak?
Oh, the Big East could do that and say the end is near and just wait for more vultures to pick away at the carcass.
Or they could do what Aresco is doing and make the best of a bad situation. By linking with NBC–presumably that will be wrapped up in a few weeks—the Big East can move on. ESPN still could make a counter offer, but unless it can match all of the promotions and time slots that NBC seems willing to give, the Big East will be part of the NBC network by the Ides of March.
Let’s look at what this might mean and see how bad or how good it might really be.
First, the money is indeed chump change. Taking an offer of a little more than 20 million a year for the next six years when you turned down 155 million for the next 10 years can not be glossed over. It was a screw up.
And no one is arguing that if one of the bigger conferences come looking for any Big East team–UConn, Cincinnati being the two prime targets–they will and should take the money and run quickly.
But the key to the new deal having any chance of working is what happens next year–in basketball–not football.
The Big East will still look pretty much like the Big East next season, with 18 teams, including the Catholic 7 group of defectors, as well as Louisville and Notre Dame AND Memphis and Temple, who can somewhat offset the loss of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, who are moving to the ACC next season.
It will be a good league and could be a great league and if NBC has it to promote, it will draw attention and command respect.
But what happens in 2014 when all the changes (now scheduled) are made in football and basketball?
Let’s compare the old Big East with the new group, with the Catholic 7 foundation and possible additions. Take a look at the records of the teams and the latest RPI rankings.
Old Big East (Records, RPI rankings)
1. UConn (17-6, 20 )
2. Memphis (21-3, 29)
3. Cincinnati (19-6, 34)
4. Temple (16-7, 40)
5. UCF (17-7, 83)
6 East Carolina (14-9, 111)
7. South Florida (10-14, 122)
8. Tulsa (13-11, 127)
9. Tulane (16-9, 147)
10. SMU (13-12, 186)
11. Houston (15-8, 203).
1. Marquette (17-6, 15)
2. Butler (20-5, 17)
3. Georgetown (18-4, 19)
4. VCU (19-5, 37)
5. St. John’s (15-9, 53)
6. Saint Louis (18-5, 56)
7. Villanova (15-10, 63)
8. Xavier (14-9, 89)
9. Providence (13-11, 92)
10. Seton Hall (13-12, 103)
11. Dayton (13-11, 126)
12. DePaul 10-14, 177)
Right now , the Catholic 7 group has the big edge. Eleven of 12 of the projected teams–and the assumption here is that the Catholic 7 won’t hear a No from anyone in that group–have winning records. Three are ranked in the Top 20 in the RPI ratings, 4 are in the Top 40 and 9 are in the Top 100.
Presumably, that would mean a minimum of 4 NCAA tournament bids and perhaps as many as 5 or 6.
In the Old Big East, we have 10 of 11 teams with winning records, 1 team in the Top 20 in the RPI, 4 in the Top 40 and 5 in the Top 100. Four teams would be virtual locks for NCAA bids.
Edge: Catholic 7, but for a league with a new face, the Big East wouldn’t do all that bad. If the Catholic 7 can add the top-tier of the A10 such as Butler, VCU, Xavier and Saint Louis, it would also thrive.
Life could go on.
In football, the Big East has much more work to do.
Here’s what the projected Big East would have looked like, based on last season’s records.
1. Tulsa 11-3
2. Cincinnati 10-3
3.. UCF 10-3
4. East Carolina 8-5
5. Navy 8-5
6. SMU 7-6
7. Houston 5-7
8. UConn 5-7
9. Temple 4-7
10. Memphis 4-8
11. South Florida 3-9
12. Tulane 2-10
None of the top 3 teams–Tulsa, UCF or Cincinnati would have earned a BCS bid. But 6 teams would have been bowl eligible.
Again, hardly great stuff and there isn’t really a rivalry game in this league right now that would get more than a quick glance. But SMU is in Texas and showing some signs of life and the Florida schools are in fertile recruiting areas. Cincinnati has been a consistent winner over the last few years.
Lots of work to be done here and that is the reason the money is so low. The key here for NBC and the Big East would be to work hard on non-conference games. Make it mandatory for every Big East school to schedule at least one Top 25 program each year, which would allow NBC to put some of those games on the main network or in prime time.
There might be some interest if say, you had these choices
2. Cincinnati-Ohio State
4. UCF-Florida State
5. East Carolina-Clemson
7. Houston-Texas A&M
8. South Florida- Florida
10. Temple-Notre Dame
12. Navy-Army, Navy-Oregon
The draw in each case would be the opposing team, not the Big East team.
All of this is obviously drawing board type of stuff, but it could work and while it would not come close to matching the main show, it would give the Big East a sense of direction, purpose and perhaps comfort.
Which at this stage is all they can expect.
© Copyright 2013 Mark, All rights Reserved. Written For: A Jersey Guy