Sports Commentary 3/20/13
Conference X now has a TV deal. What’s next ?
THOSE DEVILISH DETAILS
For the time being Mike Aresco is still the commissioner of the Big East, but come July 1st he’ll be looking for a new title, not the “commissioner” part, the league name part. Apparently “America 12” hasn’t caught the fancy of a lot of people. Finding a new name is just one of several pesky details the league left in the wake of the departure of the “Catholic Seven” basketball schools has to concern itself with. The name change is likely to be the least pesky detail of all. Calling the league “America 12” may be more of a pipe dream than a reality. After the coming season two of the existing teams, Louisville and Rutgers, will leave for other conferences to be replaced by East Carolina and Tulane the following year, with Navy coming in as a football only member in 2015, leaving the league still one team shy of the 12 necessary for a two division alignment and a conference championship game. To say this league is tenuous at best may be about the best way it can be defined. The need for a new name is part of the separation agreement with the “Catholic Seven”, who will become the new “Big East” in July and will take with them the negotiating rights with Madison Square Garden for their conference basketball tournament, which leaves the unnamed former Big East with another little detail in need of attention. A place to play their basketball tournament. The league did take care of a big detail yesterday, sort of. They announced a seven season football-basketball television contract with ESPN that will net the league $126 million over the duration, a far cry from contracts recently signed by the Big Ten and the ACC, not to mention the contract the former Big East itself turned down two years ago. “The agreement shows the confidence ESPN has in us”, said Aresco at yesterday’s announcement. It all depends on what the definition of ‘confidence’ is. In this case it doesn’t seem to be any more firm than the infrastructure of the league itself. The upheaval in college athletics is far from over, with many observers expecting more realignment involving teams from the ACC, Georgia Tech getting a strong look from the SEC and Virginia, possibly even North Carolina, attracting the attention of the Big Ten. If the ACC holds form, their own picking ground will continue to be the old Big East and ESPN’s contract comes with a clause that allows it to void that contract if two more teams leave the existing league. The contract also gives ESPN the right to sub license any games it doesn’t air and the league has been put on notice it shouldn’t expect too many prime time slots, a warning that includes the impact of scheduling conflicts even with Friday night high school football games, now that two Texas schools are members. Mike Aresco tossed out all the right catch phrases yesterday, ones that send up a lot of red flags, saying it’s a league with “Tremendous potential” with programs in “Rich recruiting areas”. As the old saying goes, “The devil is in the details”, and there are a lot of devils lurking in the details that still have to be worked out by “Conference X”. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.