‘Old’ Big East TV Deal Reduced After Catholic 7 Bolt

By: James Maddox

Conference realignment has recently taken college athletics by storm and you can expect a completely different look for quite a few teams starting with the 2013-2014 season.

Early last week, ESPN’s Brett McMurphy broke the news that the conference formerly known as the Big East will have their new TV contract with ESPN reduced by approximately $4 million due to the ‘Catholic 7’ leaving and taking the conference name with them. The ‘old’ Big East initially inked a $130 million contract but it dropped to $126 million over 7 years after the news broke regarding the Catholic basketball schools. This is drastically less than the 9 year, $1.17 billion offer from ESPN that was rejected by the Big East nearly two years ago.

According to ESPN.com Sports Business Reporter Kristi Dosh, founder of BusinessofCollegeSports.com, the yet-to-be-named former Big East conference will earn approximately $20 million annually combined for football and basketball from 2014-2020. The conference is also currently in talks with to renew their CBS contract, that would entail a minimum of 14 men’s basketball games featuring Big East teams on the network per season at a rate of $2 million annually. CBS first broadcasted Big East games in 1981. (UPDATED 3/26/13, 2:19 p.m.: The former Big East has announced a deal has been reached with CBS for at least 12 games a year through 2019-2020.)

Looking at the table below you can see the conference formerly known as the Big East looks completely different from its establishment in 1979. The conference has struggled to survive as members have defected for new opportunities and lucrative TV deals. Before the ‘Catholic 7’ (non-football playing schools) departed, the conference struggled to retain members that had not even arrived yet. TCU was expected to join the Big East before signing with the Big 12; similarly, Boise State and San Diego State decided to stay with the Mountain West Conference after prior talks with the Big East. 

Conference Members

School

Entrance Year

Sports

Cincinnati

2013

All

Connecticut

2013

All

Houston

2013

All

Louisville1

2013

All

Memphis

2013

All

Rutgers2

2013

All

Southern Methodist

2013

All

South Florida

2013

All

Temple

2013

All

Central Florida

2013

All

East Carolina

2014

Football*

Tulane

2014

All

Navy

2015

Football

1 = Louisville has officially joined the Atlantic Coast Conference and will be a participating member starting in 2014

2 = Rutgers has officially joined the Big Ten Conference and will be a participating member starting in 2014

*(UPDATE: 3/26/13, 2:19 p.m.: ESPN’s Brett McMurphy is reporting that East Carolina will be admitted as a full member, and Tulsa will also be admitted as a full member.)

 

All of this plays a large role in the ‘old’ Big East’s recent TV contract. A clause in the contract with ESPN protects the network from any potential financial losses due to future defections, meaning the deal can be terminated if teams continue to leave. To strike a deal with the conference, ESPN had to match the offer set by NBC Sports Network. According to ESPN’s McMurphy, the contract divides the league into two groups: Group A (consisting of Connecticut, Cincinnati, Houston, and Temple) and Group B (all other members). The stipulations are as follows: 

-If two group A programs leave, the deal can be terminated

-If one group A program and one group B program leaves, the deal can be terminated

-If two group B programs leave, the deal can be renegotiated 

The fact that the deal was reduced by $4 million after the announced departure of the ‘Catholic 7’ shows that the reality of the situation is serious.

Accordingly, this all places an enormous amount of pressure on conference commissioner Mike Aresco, whom has taken the disastrous situation of Big East realignment with stride. “You can’t have any regrets. I knew it was going to be a challenge,” Aresco stated in a recent interview with CBS Sports. “The reality is that a lot of people felt that a break like this was inevitable. Our job was to navigate our remaining schools through these tough times.” 

Prior to this new deal, the former college basketball powerhouse known as the Big East locked in a 6 year, $200 million deal with ABC/ESPN and CBS ending this year. According to collegesportsinfo.com, this averaged an annual revenue of approximately $3.18 million for football schools and $1.56 million for non-football schools. It is quite evident as to why the ‘Catholic 7’ departed for greener pastures. It is also evident that the soon-to-be renamed Big East is not the force it once was. 

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