TV contract, stability are Big East goals

The membership hopes new media markets like Houston will help land a lucrative TV deal.

Posted: May 24, 2012

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Saving the Big East Conference is the highest priority here at the conference's spring meetings. Quite an agenda item.

But in reality, the decisions that will determine the league's fate will be made by other conferences.

"Somebody in the Big 12 decides, 'This is what we're going to do,' " Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma said. "Everybody in the Big East is going, 'Holy [shoot]. What happens to us?' It's just the craziest thing."

Perhaps that is why the college world is paying far more attention to the Big 12 than, say, Temple rejoining the Big East on July 1.

Florida State board of trustees chairman Andy Haggard said earlier this month that the Seminoles should think about leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big 12. If that happens, there's a thought they would bring a fellow ACC member with them, presumably Clemson or Miami.

Auriemma's basic point is that the conference memberships are in a state of flux - a wave of change driven by the largest conferences and in pursuit of the most lucrative TV deals. The Big 12, for instance, is, at the moment, a 10-school conference. It lost long-standing members like Colorado and Nebraska but added Texas Christian and West Virginia. So if the Big 12 does expand from 10 to 12 teams, it could opt instead to add Big East member Louisville for one of those spots.

The Cardinals were interested in leaving for the Big 12 before the conference snagged West Virginia instead.

There's a thought here that Louisville still would leave for the Big 12 in a heartbeat.

And assuming the Big 12 raids the ACC, don't be surprised if the ACC continues its trend of raiding the Big East.

Miami and Virginia Tech left the Big East for the ACC in 2004. Boston College bolted a year later. Now, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving for the ACC as early as 2013.

Many observers believe Connecticut and Rutgers would be willing to leave for the ACC if invited.

"When these people make these moves, you don't want to come out and be critical, because you know what?" Auriemma said. "Your president could come out and do the same thing tomorrow."

That's why getting a television deal that makes all parties happy is important.

The Big East is banking on the additions of Temple, Boise State (football only), San Diego State (football only), Memphis, Houston, Southern Methodist, Central Florida and Navy (football only) to help secure a TV deal close to the $3.6 billion contract the ACC recently got from ESPN.

"That's the kind of event that needs to happen for us to show signs of stability," said Nick Carparelli, the Big East's senior associate commissioner.

According to DePaul men's basketball coach Oliver Purnell, the Big East is stable.

He stated that the conference has been, without question, the pre-eminent basketball league in the country for the last several years.

"And now, we are taking Big East basketball and football nationwide," he said. "We are going to be in every media market, practically, in the country.

"Look at the amount of households we are going to be able to get into. Not to mention the recruiting side."

As a result, Purnell thinks schools eager to leave the Big East should be careful.

"It's a tremendous opportunity here," he said.

But adding the Dallas, Houston, San Diego and Memphis TV markets might not be enough to save the present membership of the Big East.

"Two years from now, you may be back down here talking to some other people," Auriemma said to the media. "That's just the nature of where everything is right now."


Contact Keith Pompey at 215-854-2939 or kpompey@phillynews.com. Follow him at twitter.com/pompeysgridlock. Read his blog at www.philly.com/OwlsInq.

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