Was the Big East Blowing Smoke About Creating Its Own Network?

Jason DuniganCorrespondent IMay 16, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 30: Marcus Sales #5 of the Syracuse Orange is congratulated by team mate Jose Cruz #85 after scoring a touchdown against  the Kansas State Wildcats during the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 30, 2010 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

The Big East doesn't have its own cable network...and it’s looking like it never will.

Was the talk last year about starting a Big East channel just a ploy by John Marinatto to try and stave off poaching of Big East teams by the Big Ten? Marinatto even went so far as to bring in former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue as a consultant for several issues facing the Big East, including the possibility of starting a Big East-themed cable network.

However, since the Big Ten announced it was shelving further expansion for the foreseeable future, not a single word has been heard from the mouth of Paul Tagliabue, and you certainly haven't heard John Marinatto mention the subject since then.

Was it all just “big talk” made in an attempt to appear as though they were in control of their future as a conference?

Meanwhile, since Marinatto and Tagliabue publicly stated they would explore the possibility of creating a Big East network, the University of Texas and the Pac-12 conference have both announced their plans to start networks.

Yet the big talking Big East has said nothing further about it. Total silence on their part.

Apparently other entities can figure out the necessary details to make their dreams of having their own network a reality, even going so far as announcing time frames for when these networks will begin airing on cable lineups.

The Big East, on the other hand? Not a word.

The Big East cannot even seem to agree on expansion candidates. The rest of the nation seems to have a consensus on where the Big East should go—I am talking about you University of Houston and University of Central Florida—but the Big East is stuck trying to bring an FCS program on board that wouldn’t even be an option were it not for their basketball program already being a part of the conference.

Fans of the conference are getting fed up with delays and inaction. You have to wonder if members of the conference are growing weary as well.

And then of course is the whole “market presence” argument.

One cannot help but wonder openly if market presence really matters for the Big East if it is not trying to sell a network to a particular cable company in a large market city. If the Big East partners with ESPN once again for its upcoming contract, will it matter which teams are where?

ESPN is already in all the major markets in the U.S. One would think instead of relying on having teams in big markets as a selling point for a conference, relying on ratings would seem to be more important for ESPN at that point.

The same can be said for Fox, CBS or even NBC with its recent purchase of the “Versus” network, which will apparently be re-branded into some form of NBC Sports Network or something along those lines.

If any of those other networks were to get into a bidding war with ESPN over televising right for the Big East, it is safe to say they all would be more concerned with how the Big East does in the rating area more so than whether or not they have a football presence in Philadelphia?

And before you laugh at the idea of other networks bidding on the Big East, keep in mind that Big East basketball has been packaged along with Big East football in their previous contracts. Although Big East basketball is not SEC football, it does provide a whale of a load of live programming with soon-to-be 17 basketball teams and nine or 10 football teams.

And of course the wild card is Notre Dame. Notre Dame has a national following in football, yet not so much in basketball. However, would the slow-to-move Big East administration have the foresight to potentially partner with Notre Dame to offer classic Notre Dame football games as part of its lineup?

The Big East may not be able to land Notre Dame as a football conference partner, but they could certainly make use of Notre Dame’s extensive library of archived classic games. You can bet many Notre Dame Fans clamoring to relive the glories days would be interested in paying for the Big East if that were an option to them.

Yet, here we are, nearly a year later, and not a single move towards actually turning the concept of a Big East Network into reality has been made.

And collectively, if you listen closely, you can hear the entire conference membership saying in unison, “We are not surprised.”