Big East Media Days Notebook: Big East on TV, expansion and TCU doing homework

The Big East is as stable as it has ever been, at least according to the commissioner and football coaches. Big East commissioner John Marinatto opened up Big East media days by discussing the fortunes of what he referred to as a non-traditional conference.

“What we bring to the table in terms of assets is really unique,” Big East commissioner John Marinatto said.  “With the addition of TCU we represent 30% of the marketplace.”

Marinatto and the football coaches in the Big East stated time and time again just how balanced the Big East is as a conference, and the overlying theme of the morning appeared to be that the Big East is juts as good top to bottom as any conference in the nation. A favorable bowl record was thrown around a number of times. The Big East was 4-2 in bowl games a season ago and the non-conference winning percentage of .725 over the last six years is one of the first facts you read about once opening up the 2011 Big East media guide.

“I think we have great coaching and we have great players,” said Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones, entering his second season. The overall unpredictability, it’s extremely competitive. You can go to your team and your team knows that you have a realistic chance of winning a conference championship.” Jones also believes that the Big East does not have to play catch-up with the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12 and more.

“I think we’re definitely on par,” Jones said. “Look at our bowl record, we have the second highest win percentage. All of those things add up to bring credence to what you’re doing. All we can do is focus on improving our teams week in and week out.”

Asked about expansion, Marinatto did not reveal much that was not already known. No new possible members were mentioned as candidates, and no immediate timeline was put in stone. If anything, Marinatto seemed to suggest that it was a real possibility that the Big East could stand firm with nine football members once TCU joins the conference. Doing so would help keep the schedule balanced with four home and four road games in conference play. Quite simply, if the Big East does not feel there is a viable candidate to add in football, the expansion within the Big East could have been finalized already.

“We need to plan not for the next two years, but for the next 20 years,” Marinatto said. “We need to make sure that when we do make a decision that we know it’s the right decision.”

Some of the names that continue to be discussed as potential candidates include Villanova, Central Florida, Houston and East Carolina. Asked how far west the Big East would consider moving, Marinatto reminded the media that there was a time when nobody thought that a Texas school could be added to the Big East. The addition of TCU changes everything, but Marinatto said that the conference would not expand west just to do so. Any move would need to be both beneficial and sensible for the Big East, and a focus on television markets would continue to play a vital role in the decision-making.

TV news

Marinatto addressed the television future of the conference. The current deal with ESPN expires in 2012 but Marinatto says that they may not make a announcement about the future until September of 2012, but that does not mean that he is not listening to possible broadcast partners now. Two television representatives attended Big East media day to talk business with the commissioner, and Marinatto touched on every college football broadcast team, referencing the Pac-12 Network, Big Ten Network, Comcast and NBC while discussing what his conference will do moving forward.

With multiple conference television announcements in recent months between the Pac-12 and Big 12, the Big East now has the least valuable television package, but that could change as time passes, due to the demand for college football coverage according to Marinatto.

“When we signed the current agreement that we’re under it was done in a different era, in a different market place and after a very difficult time that we went through. We can’t make a mistake this time. We have a 13-month runway to September 2012 and we’re going to plan the way we need to.” Marinatto commended the Pac 12 for the news about their new television network plans.

“God bless them, I think they did a phenomenal job,” said Marinatto. “We’re going to take advantage of the landscape they helped create, what Jim Delany did with the Big Ten Network and what Mike Slive has done with the SEC.”

TCU doing their research

“It’s all blue skies in the Big East,” says TCU athletics director Chris Del Conte. Del Conte was on hand to soak in the atmosphere of the Big East media day, so he could scout just what the Horned Frogs are getting in to in 2012 once they leave the Mountain West Conference.

“It’s been phenomenal,” Del Conte said of his experience around the Big East. “We’re just getting ourselves prepared before coming in to the league so we’re not totally blind.”

The addition of TCU was mentioned a number of times by Marinatto and the Big East coaches during the opening remarks. Del Conte appreciated hearing those positive remarks. “It just speaks volumes of our football program and head coach and what he’s done but it speaks volumes of our chancellor and our board of trustees who are committed to winning in both endeavors, athletics and academics.”

TCU is losing a home game against Boise State this season, but holds no ill-will toward the Mountain West Conference. “It’s not really a controversy, but they just switched it. I understood why… everybody has to do what is best for them.” Moving the game gives the Mountain West Conference an edge when it comes to being evaluated by the BCS. Del Conte understands the logic. “I thought it was the wrong move because we had their word, but we all move on.” Boise State hosts TCU on November 12.

West Virginia the media favorite

The West Virginia Mountaineers have been named the Big East media poll favorite, receiving 21 first place votes. Pittsburgh received two first place votes and finished second in the media poll. South Florida received the lone remaining first-place vote and finished third in the poll.

  1. West Virginia (21) – 188
  2. Pittsburgh (2) – 162
  3. South Florida (1) – 151
  4. Syracuse – 98
  5. Cincinnati – 96
  6. Connecticut – 76
  7. Louisville – 60
  8. Rutgers – 33

About the author

Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com and managing editor of Crystal Ball Run. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.