Need to get to the Utah game and some more basketball stuff, but too many tabs related to the expansiopocolypse that need clearing.
While the college sporting world waits on the decision of Mizzou, Boston College’s AD Gene DeFilippo felt like popping off a bit about how influential he was in the ACC realignment committee. The comments that got all the attention were the ones pertaining to how he and BC were the reason UConn didn’t get an invite, but Pitt did along with Syracuse.
While Syracuse presented no problem, UConn did — to BC, which was still fuming over what it perceived to be vitriolic comments made when BC was finally invited to join the ACC and started competing in 2005. UConn and Pittsburgh filed a lawsuit against BC, and Calhoun made comments about never playing BC again.
DeFilippo does not deny that BC opposed the inclusion of UConn.
“We didn’t want them in,’’ he said. “It was a matter of turf. We wanted to be the New England team.’’
The other was the role of a certain Mouse Monopoly in the decision on who to invite for expansion.
BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo, who was part of the 12-member ACC expansion committee, adamantly denied that the move was dictated by basketball interests, but he did concede that the effects of it may boost that sport more than football.
“It had nothing to do with basketball,’’ said DeFilippo. “It was football money which drove expansion. It was football money and securing our future.’’
The overwhelming force behind the move, DeFilippo insisted, was television money.
The ACC just signed a new deal with ESPN that will increase the revenue for each school to approximately $13 million. With the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, said DeFilippo, another significant increase will come.
“We always keep our television partners close to us,’’ he said. “You don’t get extra money for basketball. It’s 85 percent football money. TV – ESPN – is the one who told us what to do. This was football; it had nothing to do with basketball.’’
The UNC blog, Carolina March points out this creates a conflict in the narrative of the actual story. The story starts with a premise that the ACC expansion move was dictated in no small part because of basketball driven jealousy of all the attention the Big East gets. That, of course, would favor UConn over Pitt. Especially when you factor in the women’s basketball side of things as well.
The contradiction, though, is DeFilippo then talking about how the move was all about football and the TV money. Something that favors Pitt given Pitt’s history and frankly greater passion for football over UConn. Note, that I’m not saying that UConn fans don’t care about football. It is just that they have been a 1-A program for a little more than a decade. They have been primarily a basketball school and are not at the same place in terms of history and the ratings Pitt football gets versus UConn.
The other conflict in the story is the claim that the ACC decision to expand came on the heels of the Big 12 sniffing around Pitt. Not Syracuse. Not UConn. So, that would logically suggest that Pitt was a top target of the ACC originally.
Honestly, I think DeFilippo was talking out of his ass with regards to UConn. He, and BC, do want UConn to be minimized because to them they are a regional threat and a Johnny-come-lately in football. But to be holding a stronger grudge against UConn but not Pitt for what went down when BC bolted for the ACC is questionable at best. Especially when the powers at UConn are gone, but Pitt still has the same Chancellor.
Ah, BC. There must be something about that school. They really are no more greedy and self-interested than any other program. They are just so ineptly blunt about it. They backstabbed Holy Cross at the formation of the Big East. They were in, out, then back in the ACC expansion in 2003 and 04 — all the time expressing loyalty like a weather vane. Now this.
The ESPN stuff, though, really is the big deal. And that was what DeFilippo has really tried to backtrack.
Boston College released DeFilippo’s short letter on Tuesday. In it, he apologizes for “any negative effects caused by my recent interview with a Boston Globe reporter.”
He adds that he “spoke inappropriately and erroneously regarding ESPN’s role in conference expansion.”
The general consensus is that DeFilippo is mainly sorry for speaking blunt truths. Especially since it makes a lot of sense.
Absolutely not — because there’s been speculation for months that the Big East sealed its fate last May when it rejected a nine-year, $1.4 billion television contract from ESPN. Long story not so long, the Big East decided it would rather open up bidding to NBC and Fox than accept that deal from ESPN, meaning the Big East was probably going to sign a deal with NBC or Fox, meaning NBC or Fox likely was on the verge of gaining a relevant share of the college sports landscape, and that’s not something ESPN (or anybody in ESPN’s position of power) would have liked.
The only way ESPN could ensure NBC or Fox wouldn’t gain a relevant share of the college sports landscape was to make the Big East irrelevant, and, in case you haven’t heard, the Big East is suddenly really close to being irrelevant because the ACC took Syracuse and Pittsburgh to get to 14 members. That led to the Big 12 taking TCU to get to 10, which could lead to Louisville and West Virginia exiting the Big East, too.
“ESPN is the one who told us what to do.”
Again, those words aren’t surprising — they’re just surprising to hear on the record from an ACC athletic director. Meantime, it should be noted that ESPN and the ACC have both denied DeFilippo’s remarks in statements to the New York Times, but what else would they do? It’s not like the ACC can say ESPN assured it of a better television contract if it would take Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East, and it’s not like ESPN can say it stood to benefit in a variety of ways from the ACC being strengthened at the Big East’s expense.
Especially since it opens ESPN up to a nasty lawsuit over what the Big East eventually gets as a TV Contract in the next year.
Now the Big East needs to expand. That has been obvious since before Pitt and Syracuse got their ACC lifeline. The problem has been that the basketball side has sought to limit any additional members. They grudgingly agreed to TCU but expected the football side to then take Villanova without questions. When the football schools ultimately balked when the details of Villanova’s move were learned, there was no other movement by the conference.
Even after Pitt and Syracuse left, the Big East schools have spent nearly a month doing very little. They can’t raise the exit fees because too many football schools are balking while waiting/hoping for a chance to bolt.
Invites aren’t happening because the Big East basketball schools hold the majority power now that Pitt and Syracuse are not able to participate in voting. The preferred option by the basketball members is to find schools willing to be in the Big East for football only so as not to diminish the basketball pool of money. That is why the interest in Navy, Air Force and Army generated the biggest noise. Army has already said no thanks. Air Force seems still interested and Navy is hesitating.
The other moves the Big East seems willing to make at this point is finally extend the invite to UCF and a couple other C-USA programs to get the number of football programs up to a full 12. The sad thing is that this could have been done any time in the past few years to try and create further stability in the conference and not have them scrambling so poorly now. But, as always the Big East reacts to what others do instead of planning ahead.
I know many people think the Big East will eventually negotiate with Pitt and Syracuse to let them out as early as the 2012 season. I have my doubts. The Big East already lost TCU for next year. Only Navy and Army could possibly be able to come to the Big East by next season — assuming they can break a bunch of their contracts for games for next year. Temple would have to give the MAC two years notice. MWC would expect a year notice from Air Force like they did from TCU. And C-USA where UCF, SMU, ECU, Houston, and whatever else is plucked from there have their own restrictions.
If the Knights ultimately decide to join the Big East, Conference USA officials told the Sentinel that UCF would have to pay an exit fee of about $7 million. Schools leaving C-USA must pay their annual share of television revenue under dual contracts with Fox Sports Network and CBS Sports for five years and an additional one-time $500,000 fee.
The last time Conference USA lost members, it negotiated games with remaining league members in exchange for reduced exit-fee payments. USF ended up playing a four-game football series with rival UCF, in part, because of its Conference USA exit-fee arrangement.
If C-USA schools leave this year, league leaders are not currently planning to offer any game trades to reduce exit fees and will require a bonded percentage of the full exit fees before schools can join other conferences.
Conference USA also plans to enforce its exit rules, which means the earliest UCF could join the Big East would be for the 2013 football season.
Starting at $7.5 million dollars to leave (more than the Big East exit fee), makes it much more expensive to negotiate a quick departure. So it seems increasingly likely that Pitt and Syracuse will be playing in the Big East for at least another, awkward year, simply because the number of teams in the Big East will require it to keep its BCS automatic qualifying status.
As for the Big East’s long-term BCS AQ status. That is murky. Some are already writing the obituary because of the level of competition the future holds.
Even if whatever conglomeration they come up with still stands mathematically ahead of the Mountain West and Conference USA come 2014, the bowls and the Big East’s fellow conferences have had enough. West Virginia is the league’s lone remaining school the bowls can count on to travel and draw eyeballs. Just because you give Temple or UCF a Big East label doesn’t mean fans are going to carve out four hours on Jan. 2 to watch them. The fact that an unranked 8-4 UConn team went to a BCS bowl last season (where it bought 4,500 tickets) while 11-1 Michigan State and Boise State did not was galling enough.
“You’re telling me you’re going to put 9-3 East Carolina in the Fiesta Bowl?” said one college football administrator. “Are you kidding me?”
Army, Navy and Air Force would be much more appealing — they draw well even to the third-tier bowls they play in now — but what are the chances any would win the league consistently?
Others have more optimism for the conference to keep its BCS AQ status. Whether it is political forces:
Continuing to grant a BCS bowl bid to the Big East champ is chump change to the rest of the AQ conferences compared to the political heat that could result from throwing out a league that has any service academies and large flagship universities in the Northeast. It’s imperative to the Big Ten, SEC and other AQ conferences that the BCS system itself is preserved, which likely means that they need to keep the Big East in the fold.
So what happens if the BCS threatens to pull the Big East’s automatic bid?
If I’m the Big East I threaten to file a lawsuit and tell all. Since there are no established criteria for pulling a league’s BCS bid, the Big East should view any attempt to take away its bid as impermissible. The primary value of Big East football right now is that BCS bid. If it vanishes then why would anyone want to be in the Big East? So the automatic bid is a definite property interest that is being relied upon by the league. Any rescission of that right is tantamount to collegiate sports war. If there is no established process to take away a right, how can that right be taken away?
Given all the antitrust scrutiny that the BCS is already under, can you imagine what a lawsuit’s discovery and depositions would look like if the BCS attempted to pull the Big East’s bid? The Big East was there at inception, it knows all the gritty details about how the six conferences came to power and what agreements existed between them to keep the vast majority of the bowl bonanza in their hands. Put simply, the BCS turns on one of its original six members at its own peril.
I think the political heat may be the bigger factor. Consider that New Jersey, Connecticut and West Virginia would all see their state university lose their BCS seat. That’s a 6-US Senator voting block right there. Not to mention if Navy and Air Force joined and saw the bid stripped out. To say nothing of if UCF joined. That would have Florida politicians in the center of the state under big pressure with USF and UCF denied.
Finally some silliness of the empty threat, courtesy of Dick Weiss.
If the Big East wants to play hard ball with Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which defected to the ACC without notice, it should hold them to the 27 month window of notification, which would preclude ‘Cuse and Pitt from entering the ACC until the start of the 2014 season. And, here’s the kicker, the Big East should also restrict league championship events, which have automatic BCS or NCAA bids attached, like their annual basketball tournament in the Garden to those schools that are committed to staying.
That way, the league can keep teams that are bolting the conference in the Big East Tournament but deny them the luxury of automatic entry to the Big Dance.
I’d like to take full credit for this idea but the genesis of the idea came from a close friend who is wired to expansion.
You know what? Pitt and Syracuse would love for the Big East to do this. Why? Because it would be the actionable claim to get the teams out of the Big East early. Pitt and Syracuse may not be involved in the decisions of the conference because they are leaving, but there is no way the athletic programs can realistically or legally be excluded from Big East competition if they are held in the conference. So, that won’t happen.