Will the Big East’s New Commish Make a Difference?

Will the Big East’s New Commish Make a Difference?

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Television contract is Aresco’s first priority.

The Big East Conference announced on Wednesday that CBS executive vice president Mike Aresco has been named as its new commissioner. Aresco comes to the conference with no previous university or conference management experience, but haas managed programming at the network and negotiated CBS’s television deals with the SEC and NCAA men’s basketball. Aresco comes on board as the Big East prepares to negotiate its own television contract with ESPN.

Big East History

Aresco will head up a conference that was founded in 1979 and expanded to include major college football in 1991. Where it has seen much success with basketball and other sports, the Big East has lagged other major conferences in strength and visibility, and has suffered two significant waves of defections over the past decade.

The new commissioner replaces interim commissioner Joe Bailey, himself appointed in May to replace John Marinatto. Marinatto was sacked following the departure of West Virginia and the upcoming defections of Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The Mountaineers are now with the Big 12 Conference, while the Panthers and Orangeman are heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013.

Television Contract

Aresco’s feet will be put to the fire immediately next month when the Big East must negotiate its new television contract. A strong contract may keep other teams from departing the conference, but a weaker accord may encourage a number of schools to seek membership elsewhere.

The Big East Conference is the midst of rebuilding with Temple new to the conference this year to replace West Virginia. Upon the departure of Pitt and Syracuse in 2013, the conference will welcome six new teams including Boise State, Houston and Central Florida. Navy joins in 2015 as a football-only member.

Although the conference is sufficiently weakened, its new markets may give it a leg up as it expands to new markets. San Diego State, a football-only member, opens the southern California market. Central Florida expands the conference’s toehold in the Sunshine State while Boise State, another football-only member, brings a marquee name that transcends geography. Houston, SMU and Memphis will also bring a broader dimension to the conference.

ESPN Contract

In May 2011, the Big East Conference turned down a deal with ESPN that would have given member schools about $11 million annually for at least the next decade. The offer was considered too small, but its rejection likely led to West Virginia, Pitt and Syracuse to seek their fortunes elsewhere and had TCU renege on its plan to join the Big East this year. The Big East deal was for less than half of what the SEC and Big Ten Conference negotiated, but ESPN did not counter with a higher offer.

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