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Big East Won’t Do Better Than NBC TV Deal

Logo via BigEast.org

 

What’s the cost of greed + conference realignment? For the Big East, potentially around $100 million a year.

NBC Sports Network reportedly offered the conference a six-year deal worth somewhere between $20 and $23 million per year, according to an ESPN.com report. That means each Big East school would get somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million a year, depending on whether the conference ends up with 11 or 12 members.

Two million dollars is a lot of money for most people, but it’s next to nothing in the world of college football mega-contracts – and if the conference is smart, it’ll jump on the offer.

The Big East Conference presidents got a little greedy a few years ago when ESPN offered them a nine-year television contract, worth $1.17 billion. They declined, the conference nearly collapsed after massive realignments, ESPN declined to extend their rights.

Now the Big East is back on the market, but unfortunately for the conference, it’s much less stable than it was a few years ago. West Virginia left after the 2011 season to join the Big XII, and Syracuse and Pittsburgh are headed to the ACCLouisville is also leaving for the ACC, but not until 2014, the same season that Rutgers will join the Big Ten. Those teams will be replaced by current Conference USA programs East Carolina and Tulane, with Navy joining as a football-only member in 2015.

The football programs the Big East is adding simply aren’t at the same level as the teams they have to replace – and those fill-ins were essentially a last-ditch attempt to keep the conference from dissolving – so the conference can no longer expect the same kind of money the major BCS conferences receive.

The Big Ten, buoyed by the Big Ten Network, paid out about $24 million to each member school in 2012. ACC schools received about $13 million each as their share of media revenue.

Back in 2011, the Big East was on track to receive a similar deal. ESPN’s offer would have paid $13.8 million per year to full conference members – but the presidents ignored former Big East Commissioner John Marinatto‘s advice and turned it down.

Bad move.

ESPN had exclusive rights to renew its contract with the Big East last fall, but the network declined the conference’s proposal of a $300 million-a-year deal which, according to ESPN.com, would have been the largest in college athletics.

Given the Big East’s recent instability, it would have been ludicrous for ESPN to agree to such a deal, but it would be a miscalculation for the conference to decline this new, lower offer from NBC Sports Network for the same reasons.

The conference has no leverage, particularly with the “Catholic 7” schools, all non-football members, departing to form their own conference after this year.

Money is what makes the college football world go ’round, and at this point, the Big East needs to take whatever money is thrown at it and sign on the dotted line. The conference is no longer in a position to score a favorable deal; frankly, it’s fortunate it even still exists. NBC isn’t even offering to match what the Big East schools earned in 2012, and even if another network jumps in, it wouldn’t need to outbid NBC by very much.

No matter what the conference decides to do, it’s probably a safe bet that the university presidents will be thinking of the $10 million they each left on the table the last time they had a chance to ink a deal.

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