February 13, 2013

There is still so much for the splintering Big East to resolve. There’s no shortage of rumors and reports of how the Big Priest portion would love to be split in time for the 2013 season. That, however, seems to be an impossibility. From setting up a new conference — hiring people, finding a commissioner, getting NCAA recognition for an auto bid to the NCAA Tournament, and so forth — to the very thorny issue of the money reserves in the Big East — all the exit fees, NCAA Tournament units particularly.

Then there is the issue of poaching programs from other conferences to get to a 10-12 team conference.

[Outgoing Xavier AD Mike] Bobinski said if Xavier receives the expected offer from the departing Big East schools to become one of its new members then it would have to listen. It would be situation where there were like-minded schools with a common purpose. He also said that 2014 would be more realistic for any movement while 2013 could be a bit rushed, although everything is negotiable. He didn’t say Xavier would definitely leave, but it sure sounded like the Musketeers have given this a lot of thought and are likely gone if asked, whenever that occurs. Xavier and Butler are expected to be first up on the docket to join Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, St. John’s, Villanova, Seton Hall and Providence — with the choice for a 10th or possibly 11th or 12th coming from a pool of Creighton (MVC), Dayton, Richmond, VCU and Saint Louis (all A-10).

Sorry, Duquesne.

There is no question that teams in the A-10 or MVC would jump. The A-10 TV deal gives each member $400,000/year. The Big Priest conference is looking at a deal that is anywhere from $3-4 million per year.

Sources say that Fox, whose Fox Sports 1 channel is set to launch in August, has an initial high offer on the table of more than $500 million for a 12-year deal. Fox Sports 1 will replace the network’s motorsports channel Speed, already in 81 million homes. Sources say officials with Fox are scheduled to meet with those representing the interest of the “Catholic 7” in New York City on Wednesday. A Fox spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. A high-ranking source at NBC Sports Network, which has so far engaged in preliminary discussions with the “Catholic 7,” declined comment. ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz also declined comment on the network’s interest in the “Catholic 7” games.

But the television deal is said to be far along. In fact, before the non-football schools left the Big East, sources say the presidents knew they’d be better off leaving. That’s because Jordan Bazant, the main partner of New York-based The Legacy Agency, which represents Fox broadcasters including Troy Aikman, Chris Myers and Daryl “Moose” Johnston, already had helped bring Fox to the table. Representatives of St. John’s and Georgetown took the lead in those early discussions.

And yes, the core group of the Big Priest is looking to keep a larger cut of the TV money than the teams they bring in.

As for the UConn, Cinci, USF and the others to be called up from C-USA. Welcome to hell.

Two people familiar with the deal say the Big East is closing in on a six-year contract with NBC Sports Network for football and basketball rights that will pay the conference about $20 million per year.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because negotiations weren’t being made public.

One person said the deal would likely be announced within the next two weeks. The Big East first has to go through the process of allowing ESPN, which currently holds the conference’s football TV rights, to match the offer.

The Big East’s current football deal with ESPN expires after the 2013 season and has paid football members about $3.1 million per year. The deal in the works would pay members about $2 million per year, depending upon whether the league has 11 or 12 members.

Same as the old hell.

For UCF, it’s an especially disappointing revelation. The program was hoping to take a major step in its growth, especially financially, from moving to the Big East. Now, they will be making only a small amount more than what they earned in Conference USA.

According to most reports, the C-USA deal paid an average of $1.17 million to member schools.

For UConn, USF and Cinci, this is a big step back. They actually lose TV money. Plus see the Big Priest getting more for just one sport. About the only potential upside is the hope that as the primary piece for NBC’s sports network, they will get heavy promotion on NBC itself (assuming NBC is smart enough to follow the ESPN/ABC model).

Basically NBC had no competition for the TV rights. Fox and ESPN have little interest or need. For whatever reason, CBS still has little interest in bidding for regular season college sports beyond its small basketball deal and its SEC football contract. You would think, they would also need more live content, but they just aren’t willing to do do so.

As much as ESPN takes the blame for their role in expansiopocolypse and the demise of the Big East with regards to Pitt and Syracuse leaving for the ACC, a real case is made that the utter destruction of the Big East is by the hands of Fox.

Fox is a 51% owner of the Big Ten Network. The grabbing of Rutgers and Maryland was all about TV markets. That was a big benefit to Fox. And it hurt ESPN in that respect. The loss of Rutgers and then Louisville when the ACC took them to replace Maryland was killer for the Big East and spiked the west coast grab of Boise St. and SDSU.

Then there is the very clear overpayment for the Big Priest. And the fact that they had been in negotiations before the split.

Do you see what occurred here if this is true?  Fox approached the Catholic 7 before they split off, which means it’s not so crazy that Fox wanted them to split off.  So, if you believe that Fox is overpaying for the Catholic 7, then you might be right.  However, the point is that Fox needed to overpay the Catholic 7 in order to serve as a catalyst for them to split off.  If Fox just merely offered “fair market value” to the Catholic 7, then they likely would have stayed in the hybrid.  (Anyone that thought that the Catholic 7 would have split off without the knowledge that they’d be getting paid more compared to staying in the hybrid Big East isn’t thinking straight.)  There needed to be an extraordinary financial windfall from Fox in order for the Catholic 7 to take the extraordinary step of splitting off from the Big East football schools.  As a result, it’s almost pointless to try to compare the on-the-court basketball quality of the Catholic 7 versus the New Big East.  The amounts that are being offered by Fox to the Catholic 7 reflect a “blood money” premium offer that they couldn’t refuse, whereas the Big East isn’t going to garner any premium at all and will be subject to the “normal” market forces in play.

Why? The same reason that the Big East first began with ESPN all those years ago. The network needs content. Fox is aggressive in wanting to compete with ESPN. Moreso than NBC. Fox has fall content with playoff baseball, NASCAR, college football via Big 12 and Pac-12. But it needs winter programming in some volume, i.e., college basketball.

That makes too much sense, because it isn’t for the ratings. College basketball in the regular season is just a blip even when ESPN hypes it.

Of the 316 games on CBS, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU through last Sunday, only 26 earned at least a 1.0 U.S. rating. Keep in mind this does not include the December 29 Kentucky/Louisville game on CBS, which would likely bring the total to 27.

A 1.0 rating, is roughly around 1.5 million TVs. ESPN still makes its money. Not on the one game, but on the volume of games. Spread those games over the multiple networks and loyal sports fans need to have all their networks to ensure they see their team.

College football makes the money for ESPN more heavily on advertising revenue. College basketball keeps the money flowing with the cable subscription fees.

ND always plays us tough. They’ve pretty much had our number, so I fear that game the most of the remaining.

BTW, looks like quick whistles and home cookin’ in Durham. A little scary for what may be in store.

Comment by panther94 02.13.13 @ 9:18 pm

Marquette game, a tipping point.

Comment by steve1 02.13.13 @ 9:19 pm

Mike- Dont want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but the teams ahead of us have tougher schedules by far. Cuse has gtown twice, Louisville and Marquette. Gtown has Cuse twice, Uconn and Cinci. Marquette has us, Cuse and ND.

lets start with revenge at Marquette and see where we go from there.

Comment by dinosaur 71 02.13.13 @ 9:22 pm

Gotta take back the home cookin’ comment. Things are looking like they’re being called fairly since then.

Comment by panther94 02.13.13 @ 9:25 pm

Ron Cook isn’t much of a writer….especially for a guy who went to a good school like Northwestern.
Which explains why he’s such a PSU fan and hates Pitt…

Comment by Jackagain 02.13.13 @ 9:25 pm

What fun it will be to tangle with the Research Triangle gang!

Comment by steve1 02.13.13 @ 9:25 pm

EMel, you say some truths. Anyway all you guys are keeping me younger. Not sure I agree with all, but still lots of fun.

Leave the Catholic schools alone! All they have is basketball.

Yes, Boston College did save our lives. Now we will save theirs. Watch their recruiting improve with closer competition. Sorry we lost Maryland, and Rutgers. I liked the geographic locations.

Comment by Old Pitt Grad 02.13.13 @ 9:27 pm

Frankly, OPG, I’d rather be sitting in my armchair in front of the tube than in the scary RAC rafters.

Quality trumps geography, at least for me.

Comment by steve1 02.13.13 @ 9:50 pm

well stated EMel

… now I understand why Cook annoys me so much all of the time!

Comment by Pittscript 02.13.13 @ 10:50 pm

OMG I hope no one havin lunch anywhere in the Burg wearing Pitt gear orders a pitcher of Miller and yells to his buds across the bar, “We got Miller on the Way” cause if FRank overhears that he will crap his britches in anticipation! UPone

Comment by UPone 02.13.13 @ 10:51 pm

Duke without Ryan Kelly is very average.

Comment by Vulcan Rob 02.13.13 @ 11:25 pm

If Carolina makes its free throws, they beat duke.

Comment by Scott 78 02.13.13 @ 11:37 pm

#6 Syracuse goes down to unranked Uconn.

And #11 Butler goes down to unranked Charlotte, formerly UNC-Charlotte or UNCC. Yes the team that had Cornbread Maxwell and made the Final 4 in 1977.

Funny thing Syracuse lost twice in one week to unranked teams (us & Nova) and didn’t drop out of the Top 10. They are fading fast even with Southerland back. Now only have one less loss than us. And as dino mentioned have a very tough schedule to hoe.

We keep winning and who knows PatMac might be right. A conf. championship and another #1 seed.

Just win against Marquette on Saturday, we’ll take it slow & easy , one game at a time.

Appreciate the kind words Old Pitt Grad and Pittscript.

Comment by EMel 02.14.13 @ 2:08 am

A win against Marquette proves to me that this year’s team is peaking at the right time to go deep into the tournament. As Steve1 opined and I agree, Marquette game is the tipping point.

Comment by Dr. Tom 02.14.13 @ 7:45 am

EmeI, I think we’d have to win out the regular season, win the BE Tourney in dominating style-which would include beating Louisville, AND get some help from other teams to be in the #1 seed conversation.

Comment by Lou 02.14.13 @ 8:55 am

On the conference front, don’t think for a minute the shenanigans are over. The Big 12 (10) is in trouble. They are subject to poaching from the PAC 12 and Big Ten (14. Texas and Oklahoma will leave the minute the grass is greaner elsewhere and the next time I believe a conference commish in a public statement will be the first time I do.
That means the Big 12(10) will have to get aggressive in finding new members.
WVUlgar is the test case and the early returns are not good.
Their football attendance will take a big hit in ’13 and their men’s basketball is struggling. Every time they lose Huggins gains 5 pounds and he is huge!
More to the point, the travel issue and dilution of brand name has begun and WVUlgar is the first victim.
So the ACC had better get aggressive and complete their own network deal. Otherwise, this blog will be splattered with “Expansionapolis” stuff ad naseum beginning in June.

Comment by sfpitt 02.15.13 @ 1:03 pm

there will be alot of open office space open somewhere in Providence…Big East won’t need it and I seriously doubt if The Big Heaven will make the same mistake twice and call Providence home.

Comment by SFPitt 02.15.13 @ 9:46 pm

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