The Big East Conference appears ready to shop its television product.
The embattled conference reportedly will allow its 60-day exclusive negotiating window with ESPN to lapse next week, allowing other networks to enter into what the conference hopes escalates into a bidding war.
According to several reports, the NBC Sports/Comcast and Fox already introduced preliminary pitches to Big East athletic directors, and can formally submit bids after the exclusive period with ESPN ends.
These negotiations will test the metal of new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco. The Big East hired Aresco in August, opting for a television executive instead of a commissioner with a background in sports or university administration.
Aresco has experience handling college sports television contracts. An executive with CBS for 16 years, Aresco had been a vice president in charge of programming. He negotiated the Southeastern Conference 15-year deal with CBS.
The Big East rejected an offer from ESPN earlier this year.
According to ESPN.com, the Big East’s current six-year deal is worth $3.12 million annually for each of the eight full members, and $1.5 million annually for each of the eight non-football members. The eight football members split $13 million; the 16 basketball members split $24 million.
With the conference shifting, losing members, and taking on new ones, the new television contract is paramount to future stability.
During the Big East basketball media day last week, Aresco characterized the talks with ESPN has productive.
“We’re talking,” Aresco . “Talks have been good and constructive. They value our product immensely. We value them. We’re continuing to talk,” he said. “If something else develops, we’ll see. We have a lot of interest from other networks and you would expect that because our product is so good and so plentiful.”
Merlisa covers Georgetown and Big East basketball. Please follow her on Twitter: @merlisa