So now it is over. Or continuing. Take your pick.
After a whirlwind round of talks which continued all day Friday into Saturday morning, the Big East and ESPN have a deal–subject to approval by the Big East Presidents which is expected to be a mere formality in the next few days.
The official announcement came on Saturday afternoon, with details to follow, which should include a 7-year package in football and basketball which will bring Big East schools a total of approximately $130 million.
That total of course, is far short of the more than $1.2 billion offer the Big East turned down 20 months ago, but then again the Boston Globe was a billion dollar purchase by the New York Times 20 years ago and is now being shopped on the market for approximately 100 million dollars.
For the Big East, it has been mostly bad for the last few years as the league has been plundered and polarized.
Big East commissioner Mike Aresco, who took the job in August, can now focus on his next crisis–the breakaway by the 7 basketball schools known as the Catholic 7.
Once that is done, Aresco and the Big East can begin life as a smaller, less glamorous and less valuable entity of between 10 and 12 teams in college football and basketball, ostensibly all with a common goal and bond, which was hardly the case in the Big East for the past 20 years.
Aresco has not commented publicly about the deal with ESPN, which was finally worked out in the last 24 hours, after the self-proclaimed world-wide leader matched the offer put on the table to the Big East by NBC.
The money, as been well documented, was minimal. Only between 20 and 23 million a year, which is not even in the same hemisphere as the $150 million a year package which the Big East turned down less than two years ago.
What NBC was offering was exposure and a place as the guest of honor for its NBCSports Network. cable network which still needs more programming.
What ESPN was offering was the comfort of a network which is still the gold standard for broadcasts of college athletics, as well as a relationship with the Big East, which dated back to the creation of both the network and the conference in 1979.
Familiarity was definitely a factor. But so was the wide variety of outlets ESPN had. As one source at the Big East said on Saturday, “ESPN over matched the offer. The deal they offered in terms of exposure is better than the deal we have now in football. It was more than fair.”
So while there will be less money–much less money–ESPN is going to be part of making the Big East the “best of the rest”, which means not quite at the BCS level that the Big East will be part of for one more year, but a cut above, the other groups of conferences such as the Mountain West and Conference USA, who are also fighting for a seat at the main table.
How that will work and how the money is distributed over the next seven years will be explained in the next few days and weeks. To most of us, it doesn’t mean much. What is important is that if you were used to watching Big East Big Monday basketball and the Big East tournament on ESPN, you can still find them there.
If the Big East can produce a pair of Top 10 type teams in football, ESPN will find a way to not only show the game, but promote it as well.
The Big East’s television future is secure for the next seven years. Now Aresco and Company must make the break up with the Catholic 7 as smooth as possible. Sources in the Big East say that both sides are very close to reaching an agreement, perhaps as soon as the next few weeks.
The first major announcement will be the departure date. The consensus opinion seems to be that will be July of 2014, but on Saturday afternoon one Big East source said that a departure by this July is still being discussed. How that would work that quickly remains to be seen.
After that, the issue of the name “Big East” also must be resolved. Both the football and basketball groups want the name, which belongs to the football group unless the league is dissolved in the next four months.
Once those two issues are settled, the Big East and ESPN can continue their relationship in relative peace.
Or at least until the next conference raid takes place.© Copyright 2013 Mark, All rights Reserved. Written For: A Jersey Guy