As UConn kicked off the 2012 Big East football season, news broke about the future of the conference. No, the league isn’t losing another member. Commissioner Mike Aresco confirmed that the league is looking to add a fourteenth member, as well as hold a championship game after the 2013 regular season.
“We’re looking at a 14th,” he said. “I’m not talking about which ones. There are some obvious candidates, but we’re not talking about raiding anyone and there are some independents that might potentially want to be a member.”
The commissioner — in power for less than a month — isn’t worried about the current group of teams leaving the conference. Earlier this year, both Syracuse and Pittsburgh decided to jump to the ACC, effective in 2013. West Virginia — the reigning Big East champ — didn’t wait that long. They are a member of the Big 12, effective immediately. As for the current group of teams like Louisville and South Florida?
“I think they’ll stay,” Aresco said, “and I think they’ll want to stay because I think we’ll work hard to keep them here.”
As reported earlier this month, Aresco is intent on securing a new, lucrative television deal for the conference. The automatic qualifier bid to a BCS game and big money will be evaporating in 2014 with the implementation of a new, four-team playoff system. Thus, the Big East will have to replace the money normally generated late in the season.
Remaining — or claiming — status as a top conference will help. As will a television contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. These two are separate, but tied together. If Aresco can secure another top tier team to join Boise State in the league next season, the better the chances are of top-flight revenue in television money.
While speculation will be rampant on which team Aresco will target, don’t dream too big, Big East fans. Considering that Temple was the best they could get on short notice, most legitimate programs won’t jump ship easily. On the other hand, geography — the 2013 conference will encompass four time zones — isn’t an obstacle for the “new” Big East.