College Sports, TV Deals and the Eventual Death of the Big East Conference

College Sports, TV Deals and the Eventual Death of the Big East Conference


Money will move more schools around in coming years.

Besides the constant shift of colleges to different sport conferences, the big news this year has been the money major college programs are receiving for various TV deals. They’re both related and show just how important it is for schools to be aligned with the right conference or risk losing millions of dollars annually in revenue. This fall, the Big East Conference will be seeking its latest television deal. By the looks of things the Big East is about to receive a huge financial blow, one that could have more schools looking for a way out of this beleaguered conference.

TV Contracts

Money matters in college and schools with big time programs stand to earn millions annually from television rights alone. Those monies fund each school’s athletic programs, not just men’s basketball and football, the two top moneymakers in college athletics. Without the required funds, programs such as field hockey, golf and wresting would be put into jeopardy, and alumni dollars would also likely be stemmed. No university president wants to oversee a sinking ship!

The Big East Conference is an excellent example of a once-promising league that has failed to keep up with the times. Originally predominately a basketball conference, football was added in 1991 and with it a number of highly respectable teams joined. Miami was the best of the football-playing Big East, followed closely by Virginia Tech and West Virginia. Though the conference wasn’t on par with the nation’s best conferences, it clearly fielded teams that competed on a national level.

ACC Raids

Due to its proximity to the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East has been the subject of several ACC raids beginning in 2003 when Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech announced that they were leaving. The Big East rebounded by pulling in Conference USA teams Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida to fill the void. A second ACC raid will soon take out Syracuse and Pittsburgh, while West Virginia has already left for the Big 12. The Big East responded by pulling in more Conference USA teams as well as football-only programs including Boise State, San Diego and Navy.

Despite the addition of Boise State and with Temple, Houston, Central Florida, Southern Methodist and Memphis also joining in — a Big East raid again — it is clear that the Big East cannot possibly aspire to the level of play seen in the Big12, Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC, let alone the ACC. Thus, the $3 billion TV contract inked by the Pac 12; the $3.6 billion for the ACC and the $2.6 billion for the Big 12, will be out of reach for the Big East. Last year, before West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced their departure for greener pastures, the Big East turned down a $1 billion contract over nine years reports the Boston Herald. Even that “low” number may be difficult to justify, leaving schools with less money this go around.

Conference Raids

The conservative estimate for the Big East TV contract is $6.4 million, an amount that is five times greater than the Conference USA take as well as what San Diego nets out west. This compares to what schools in the Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, Big Ten and ACC pull in — at least $15 million per year. That’s a gap of nearly $10 million annually for Big East schools with football and men’s basketball teams, an amount some college presidents may have a difficult time swallowing. LIke UConn. Or Rutgers.

So, here is the deal: if a conference comes calling and targets one of the few remaining Big East schools worth taking, expect the already diminished Big East to finally implode. Cincinnati, Louisville, UConn and Rutgers could easily be snapped up. And, if the ACC itself is raided, then South Florida could find a home there, replacing Miami.


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Categories: Collegiate Sports