So what’s next with the Big East’s reported TV deal with NBC Sports ?
THE BLEAK EAST
The Big East, according to a report in the Sports Business Journal, is closing in on a six year, $25 million a year deal with NBC, the deal expected to become final if ESPN declines an option to match the offer by the end of the week. There would also be a second tier deal with CBS that would bring the league an additional two to three million a year. The NBC package would put some Big East football and basketball games on it’s primary network, the majority on it’s new cable sister, NBC Sports Network. On the surface it looks like a good deal for the Big East, despite the value of the deal with ESPN that expires after the 2013 football season. That deal was worth $200 million, $33 million dollars a year, a total that was divided between more schools than will share in the new income, with seven schools leaving the Big East to form their own basketball conference. Those seven schools, however, were not full partners in sharing the football money. Even with the reduced value on their product the Big East is far from broke. It will supplement it’s television income with exit fees from Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia and Louisville, who’s departure is the primary reason for the league’s decrease in television value. As Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim pointed out last week after the final game in his team’s storied rivalry with UConn, if league officials had cut the football deal that was on the table for them two years ago much of the destruction of the Big East could have been avoided. That was an offer from ESPN for a reported $150 million a year. League officials, confronted with televison contracts being signed by other power conferences, turned down the ESPN offer. The league scrambled for a comparative deal and teams began to desert the sinking ship as none surfaced. The lure of the money other leagues commanded was too much to resist, with the ACC’s current $240 million a year deal and the $248 million a year deal in the Big Ten presenting per institution payoffs six and seven times those in the Big East. Even adding the exit fees to the new television contract won’t bring the Big East total to half of those other leagues, and the future lure of the league is hampered by it’s downgrade into a five league cluster for one BCS bowl berth. Cincinnati is now trying to set itself up for inclusion in the ACC if another opportunity presents itself by providing officials of that league with details of a $75 million upgrade to it’s football facility, evidence that the Bearcats understand which sport butters the bread. Once the T-V contract is in place the Big East will be confronted with myriad legal fees, battling with the seven defectors for retention of the league name and brand before getting into negotiations over which league will then play it’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden. The basic problem confronting the Big East now is no matter how bright a picture they try to paint for the future, it’s once glorious past is now in too much decay to make that future seem anything but bleak. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.