Friday, February 22, 2013

How The Big East Fairs For The Future

The Big East has always been synonymous with a basketball-focused conference since 1982 when they tried to bring in major football partners and failed. That decision has always been a handicap for a conference who has provided nationally recognized and prestigious basketball programs since its’ inception. When this basketball season concludes, only five founding members will remain from a conference that has been home to 20 different schools for basketball since 1979.

It’s difficult to describe the Big East’s identity moving forward, as they rebuild their brand with new TV deals. They are in negotiations with NBC and CBS for football and basketball, respectively. After a 33-year relationship with ESPN, the Big East is allowing them the right of first refusal to NBC’s offer.  

As NBC and CBS continue negotiations with the Big East, there is no doubt that the state of the conference will come into question. The loss of the Catholic 7 will leave the conference in an uncertain situation. The original negotiations between ESPN and the Big East in late 2011 caused the inevitable departure and disintegration of the conference, as Syracuse and Pittsburgh quickly decided to leave for the ACC. A potential $150 million a year deal with ESPN has turned into $25 million over six years from NBC and $2-4 million from CBS. Quite frankly, that’s a disappointing state for a conference that could have easily become a “power conference” two years ago.

For the networks, they are treading cautiously with this new Big East.  The nerving condition of the conference significantly reduces the length of their contracts, from about 12 years down to six. This gives the networks a chance to re-evaluate the conference in six years, rather than waiting more than a decade to see if their investments plummet. 


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