The surprising reality with the Big East — if it stays together in its intended 13-team and 18-team formats — is that it could still be a lucrative league. Football drives the financial bus, and basketball provides boundless inventory. While there have been plenty of jokes about who would want to watch San Diego State and Connecticut play football, apparently someone is willing to pay to find out.
Neal Pilson, a media consultant and former president of CBS Sports, predicted that the Big East could surpass the deal it turned down last year, which was considered similar in value to the A.C.C.’s $155 million annual deal.
“I think if they stay together and negotiate as a single unit, I think they can come away with a reasonably favorable result,” Pilson said. “Even more than what ESPN offered a year and a half ago. I think the competition will drive it.”
That’s not the case anymore, as stories this week are all about how the Big East’s TV deal could fall way short of the conference’s expectations. It seems odd to me that these stories started coming out only three days after NBC and Fox Sports representatives made presentations at last week’s Big East meetings that suggested otherwise. Maybe “odd” isn’t the right word… “Convenient” might be more appropriate. It appears that we may be entering a period of public negotiation, with both sides taking their cases to the media. The outgoing Memphis athletic director isn’t exactly an unbiased source, and obviously the Big East wants to appear optimistic coming out of its own meetings. Pilson may or may not have an agenda (I have no idea), but at least he’s named so we can scrutinize his comments accordingly. On the flip side, “industry sources” could have just as much motivation to use public perception to drive down the Big East’s asking price. (In fairness to McMurphy, he points this out at the end of his article).