ESPN keeps the (for now) Big East
by Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY Sports
The conference called the Big East, at least for now, and ESPN made it official Wednesday: ESPN will keep that conference’s TV rights through 2020.
But after the loss of some high-profile programs, the conference ends up getting less than $19 million annually from ESPN — after turning down an ESPN offer in 2011 for more than $130 million annually.
Oh, well, at least it got something after ESPN, which has covered the league since its creation in 1979, last month matched a bid from NBC.
Conference commissioner Mike Aresco on Tuesday tried to find something to be upbeat about: “We’re confident now that (all league schools) are on the same page. … We’ve been through a lot.”
At least that’s something indisputable. Otherwise, the league still faces lots of questions — such as what to call itself.
Schools leaving the conference, and taking the Big East name with them, include seven Catholic colleges — such as Georgetown and Marquette — whose TV basketball rights are expected to be sold to Fox, in part to provide on-air tonnage for the new Fox Sports 1 sports channel that debuts Aug. 17. Fox’s formal announcement, and the announcement that Xavier will be joining the new Big East, are expected Wednesday
Aresco, who was a CBS Sports programmer after starting his TV sports career at ESPN, says the unnamed league’s top priority is, of course, “rebranding.” Aresco says a new name “could possibly come in April or early May. … We’re not going to set a deadline.”
And there’s still an unknown about where, besides ESPN, the league’s games might air on national or regional TV. ESPN has the rights to sub-license the TV rights to games it doesn’t air. ESPN senior vice president Burke Magnus on Tuesday said “we expect there will be some interest from national broadcasters, but there’s nothing firm yet.”
Then there’s the question of where to hold league’s conference basketball tournament, which historically has been staged in New York’s Madison Square Garden. “It’s pretty much a given that the tournament will be on a campus site,” Aresco says.
And there’s the issue of adding another school … [For more on ESPN makes it official: It keeps the (for now) Big East, click here.]