The Big East isn’t dead… yet
The Big Ten still leads the way among conferences with an automatic BCS berth when it comes to television and media rights contracts. The Big Ten has $3.8 billion lined up through 2032 between deals currently signed with the Big Ten Network, ABC and ESPN. The SEC is also still in second place even after the Pac 12 announced a blockbuster deal in partnering with ESPN and FOX as the conference expands this year with Colorado and Utah.
The ACC is still in the infant stages of their latest contract with ESPN. At the time the ACC struck gold with a richer contract than initially expected, proving that there was plenty of money to rake in even with a football product that is mediocre overall. The Big 12, having lost Nebraska and Colorado starting this summer, still managed to work a respectable contract with FOX just last month, but the conference still fails to compete head on with the likes of the rest of the BCS conferences.
Except for the Big East.
Note: This chart does not include money for Big Ten basketball with CBS ($20 million), University of Texas money for The Longhorn Network ($15 million), bowl money or any extra conference championship money. It also does not include unknown money that could be generated by the Pac 12’s upcoming network.
The Big East is the lone BCS automatic qualifying conference making less than $1 billion on its current contract, although the conference is already in the negotiating stages with ESPN to continue working together. The Big East’s $200 million contract expires in 2013 and the urgency to work on a new deal now that the rest of the competition has secured their long term future financially is building. Mark Ennis of Big East Coast Bias informs me that the Big East is working on an extension that would pay the Big East anywhere between $110 and $130 million per year, although the length of a possible contract remains unknown. The initial figures still lack the punch that the Big Ten, SEC and Pac 12 will be seeing but it is still a significant increase in revenue compared to where the conference sits now.
The key in negotiating will possibly hinge on the stability of the conference moving forward.
What if the football schools split from the rest of the non-football schools? Who will the tenth team be? Where will this conference be in five years, which would be two years in to a new media contract?
Those are questions that could be answered as soon as the conference confirms a tenth football playing member, whether they are a full league member or not. Remember that the Big East currently is situated in some very prosperous media markets as a whole and certainly in basketball. The Big East has a presence in New York, Philadelphia, New England, Washington D.C. and once TCU officially begins competing in Fort Worth. The possible addition of Central Florida (if the whole Villanova football thing does not work out) would add the Orlando market to a conference already with a lucrative television market foot print.
My best guess is that the Big East secures an extension with ESPN before the end of the 2011-2012 academic year. It would be a smart move for ESPN to lock up the Big East now rather than test the free agent waters against NBC, who I feel missed a great opportunity to attach to the Pac 12, and FOX, who is clearly making a serious case for getting more involved with college football. FOX already has deals with the Pac 12 (west coast) and Big 12 (central region) and could really set the bar with an east coast presence.Remember that FOX Sports lost out on a surprise bidding war with ESPN for the ACC’s television rights last summer. ESPN probably shelled out more money than they had hoped for for fear of losing ACC basketball, which is a big part of ESPN’s winter programming.
In case you haven’t heard, the Big East basketball brand is also a big asset to ESPN.
The Big East would be a great addition, despite what you may say about the football conference at this point. The future could be bright.