Big East TV Deal: Big Time Dollars vs. Basketball Greatness

Zachary McIntyreContributor IApril 19, 2011

BATON ROUGE, LA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback Geno Smith #12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers in action against the Louisiana State University Tigers at Tiger Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Big East Conference is starting to roll the ball on negotiating a new TV deal.  The current contract with ESPN, set to expire in 2013, is worth $36 million annually.  That pie is then split between the current 16 teams in the conference and is for both football and basketball.  If you compare that to some of the other conferences out there, the Big East is way behind.

The current ACC contract pays out $155 million annually and is split between 12 teams.  The new Big 12 conference just signed a huge deal with Fox Sports and is reportedly worth $1.17 billion over 13 years and is split between the 10 current teams with Texas likely receiving the largest payout.  And don't forget the formation of the Longhorn Network.  Rumors have it that the Pac-12 will be putting a new deal together and is rumored that they want $2.3 billion over 10 years.  Now you can see why the Big East is way behind.

Big East blogger Brian Bennett for ESPN wrote on Monday, "the Big East has fallen far behind other BCS leagues in television revenue, a situation that threatens to make it difficult for the conference to compete on equal footing going forward."  Lets just say this, we have got to get something done and make sure this deal is a good one.  TCU can't afford another conference blowing up on them and things seem a little uneasy right now.  In another response from Brian Bennett about the volatility of the conference,  he said "I thought the conference as we know it would stick together for longer than most people expected, but the Villanova situation has the potential to be a Franz Ferdinand moment (the archduke, not the rock band). Villanova clearly wants to get on the side of the football-playing members in case of a future split, and if the Big East tells that school no after basically offering an open invite in the fall, who knows what the reaction and ramifications will be for the basketball-only schools? The thing that would keep this together is a lucrative TV contract for all sports; we all know that Big East basketball is an extremely valuable property, and Big East football on its own would be less so."

There lies the problem. 

Do we look at it from a football prospective where the money truthfully sits, or do we worry more about it form a basketball prospective?  I think we have to do both, and I think we have to open up the market for a TV deal beyond ESPN.  Current estimates for a new Big East deal range from $110-$130 million per season for both football and basketball and split between 16 to 18 schools.  There is also a rumor that the idea of starting a Big East network is on the table. 

Overall, the Big East is going to have to compromise, and it is going to be tough.  Money talks and usually wins out, but we can't ruin the reputation of a great basketball league.

And that is coming from a TCU fan looking in from the outside since we haven't even joined.

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