During last week’s Big East press conference to announce their new members, Commissioner John Marinatto was asked the billion dollar question. Now that the Big East has added Boise State, San Diego State, Central Florida, Houston and SMU can the conference get a lucrative TV in the summer of 2012?
“That’s something obviously that we’ve discussed a lot over the course of the past several months as we’ve engaged at least half a dozen media consultants in this process.
“With regard to television, this new footprint as I mentioned is the largest footprint in all of college sports and will reinforce the Big East national brand. It was important for us to ensure we had a strong presence in the west, and we’ve achieved that, representing all four time zones under our umbrella.
“Television rights are obviously a very important factor in our overall goals and expansion. We believe, obviously, that the appropriate levels of revenue derived from television is very important to our respective members.
“As we discussed the idea of football specifically with our consultants, we’ve envisioned the premise that we could theoretically on any given Saturday have four kickoffs that don’t compete with each other. We think, as I mentioned earlier, that’s a very powerful model as we move forward in our upcoming TV negotiations, initially with ESPN eight months from now, because it provides something that no other conference in the country can represent. So we’re excited about that prospect.
“We’ve been in the past on the cutting edge of doing things that no one has ever done before and we believe that this is just another example of what will follow once we’ve established the premise.”
The media brain trust that the Big East had advising them included three former broadcast network presidents and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. The four time zone coast to coast plan to add the “West Wing” was implemented in part because there were no schools left in the east that had enough cache to bring the big dollars. Boise State has a national following, while SMU, Houston, Central Florida and San Diego State all bring attractive media markets with them. They compliment existing members Connecticut, Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida. That gives the conference a presence from New York to San Diego.
Navy has said they will likely join in 2015 and the conference will continue to look west as add schools first to get to a 12-team conference, but they have not ruled out the possibility of expanding to 14 before it is all over. In 2013 when the new class enters, West Virginia, Pitt and Syracuse may still be in the conference (pending court action) making for 13 members.
No one will mistake the Big East for the SEC, but this week Major League Baseball’s Anaheim Angels secured a 20-year, $3 billion dollar contract from Fox Sports West. So with ESPN, The NBC Sports Group, The Fox Sports Media Group, CBS and Turner Sports all likely to get into the bidding, reaching the $1.5 billion dollar mark is attainable and surpassing it is not out of the question. That is what going west is all about.