Potential TV windfall encouraging for Big East
PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- The Big East won't begin formal negotiations on a lucrative new TV contract until this fall -- expected to top $2 billion if all goes well -- but the conference gave a lift to its coaches and athletic directors Monday at its annual meetings, allowing NBC and Fox to offer up preliminary presentations on why they'd like very much to showcase Big East games in the future.
That interest, combined with the existing audience established on ESPN, should create quite a bidding war this fall, something that could be a windfall to the conference if its current members can stay together long enough to see the stability of a new deal.
"I think it's important that we stay together right now, especially as we get into these television negotiations," USF football coach Skip Holtz said. "Obviously when you look at a big part of what is driving conference realignment, it's the financial side of it. I do think (a new deal) will have an opportunity to go a long way in helping keep this league together."
So much has changed in the past year -- the league mourned the death Monday of former West Virginia coach Bill Stewart at age 59 after suffering a heart attack. Just a year ago, he was here in Ponte Vedra representing the Mountaineers -- he was later replaced by coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia jumped to the Big 12, following TCU. Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who are headed to the ACC, perhaps next year, were not represented at this week's meetings.
For all that change, coaches said the mood was upbeat and positive, something they don't take for granted. Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey remembered the first round of realignment chaos -- which saw Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech go to the ACC in 2004, replaced in football by USF, Cincinnati and Louisville -- and said the current atmosphere is much better than what Ponte Vedra saw back then.
"Everybody said we were dead then, and the meeting in (2003) was a funeral around here," Brey said. "Everybody was 'Woe is me. We're done.' I remember (Syracuse coach Jim) Boeheim saying 'Well, you'll be OK in the Big Ten, Mike. You'll do good there.' Now we're talking about new markets, Texas and Orlando now. ... There's some good juice flowing around here, wherein in (2003) it was 'Maybe we are dead.'
Interim commissioner Joe Bailey, on the job just two weeks after John Marinatto's resignation, talked about the importance of open communications between the schools as the league moves forward and selects a full-time leader. The arrival of Boise State in 2013 is something he fully expects, even as the school seeks a new home for its non-football teams, once headed to the now-crumbling Western Athletic Conference.
"Boise clearly has a situation with their Olympic sports, and they're trying like mad to figure out the best way to handle that," Bailey said. "We the conference are going to do everything we possibly can to help them. ... If you're going to ask if there's any uneasiness as far as the Big East is concerned, absolutely not. For a whole variety of reasons, the conference is a fabulous platform for Boise."
So while there's uncertainty because college athletics is rapidly changing around the Big East, the league's coaches and administrators were unanimous in expressing their optimism about the conference and its future.
"There were a lot of questions being asked, but there was a lot of positive feedback about the strength of the league, the teams coming into the league," Holtz said. "This league is stronger today with the new teams coming forward than it was seven years ago ... There's a lot of exciting things on the horizon. There are still a lot of unknown things, but they're unknown for college football, not just the Big East."