That’s the big question the conference has to answer in the coming months, with September opening the Big East’s negotiating window.
ESPN, who currently holds the rights, gets first dibs on the negotiation process, with other entities (Fox, NBC and anyone else who may want in on the fun) getting their shot shortly thereafter.
So how much will the Big East’s television rights fetch on the market? At present time the price tag seems to depend on who you happen to ask.
CBSSports.com’s Brett McMurphy, who has been at the forefront of the realignment business, received different answers when discussing the issue with various media executives.
While former president of CBS Sports Neil Pilson told McMurphy that the Big East could end up getting more than the projected $130 million/year the conference turned down last year, that’s not the consensus.
But industry sources told CBSSports.com they expect the Big East to get much less — maybe as low as $50 million annually — because of the loss of West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and TCU. And then there’s the possibility the Big East could lose two more of its biggest names — most likely Louisville, Connecticut or Rutgers — if the Big 12 expands and the ACC has to replace two schools.
“ESPN has mitigated any potential programming loss, the Big East has lost value and by the time they negotiate their deal, about $8 billion will have been spent on other college football deals [since last spring],” a source said. “It’s not the most ideal scenario, especially when there is other college football programming available of similar quality.”
Current all sports members receive a paltry $3.125 million per year from the Big East’s current deal while the basketball schools get $1.5 million per year.
In this current era that’s definitely not going to cut it, and the same goes for the projected figures of the $60 million/year deal.
According to McMurphy the football-only schools (Boise State, San Diego State and Navy right now) would only get $3 million per year.
For the two western schools would that money really be enough to make up for both increased travel and the fact that their non-football programs will play in different conferences?
With Boise State facing a June 30 deadline to withdraw from the Mountain West, how the rumor mill is digested will have a lot to do with whether or not they follow through on their intention to join the Big East.
And that’s the important thing to keep in mind when it comes to the current climate of collegiate athletics: until pen hits paper and documents are signed is there really a “sure thing?”
By September there should be a better idea of who’s “all in” when it comes to the schools who are already in the conference.
Schools can say they’re committed all they want, but outside of Louisville no one’s really been up front about what would happen should another league offer membership (hard to see any of the holdovers staying if invited to another conference).
The Big East was founded with basketball and major media markets in mind. Now they have to hope that there’s enough value in their football (and overall inventory) in order to stay afloat.