Sunday, December 17, 2017
Colleges

Q/A with new Big East Conference commissioner Mike Aresco

New Big East commissioner Mike Aresco, formerly a vice president of programming at CBS Sports, has been active in radio appearances and interviews since being named as the conference's new leader. He took time to speak with the Times' Greg Auman on a number of issues, like the league's future and upcoming TV negotiations and the impact a new deal could have on the conference:

Q: You're new to being a commissioner, but you've sat on the other side of the table from many college administrators in your career. Are there any in particular you would pattern yourself after as a conference leader?

A: "It's kind of risky when you single out people, because there's so many able commissioners I've dealt with who are terrific people. Obviously, the people in our core group, I know (SEC commissioner) Mike Slive and (Big Ten's) Jim Delany extremely well. They are very close friends. Our families are close. (Big 12's) Bob Bowlsby, (Pac-12's) Larry Scott, (ACC's) John Swofford's been a friend for a long time. This group, I certainly am going to reach out, talk to them, seek their counsel. ... I really feel an affinity with this group. They're great guys. I care about college athletics. We've shared issues, we've talked about issues, shared opinions. They treat me like family, treat me like one of the commissioners. I think it'll be an easy transition in that respect. It'll be comfortable in the room. I'm looking forward to that part of it."

Q: Do you have a sense for how you feel about a playoff system, what you would like to see?

A: "I don't want to get too much into detail on that. I'm comfortable with what they've done. I'm comfortable with four teams and the championship game. I think it's going to be great for college sports. I think it's going to be enormously important in terms of revenue. I think the revenue coming out of this will be great for everyone. It's up to me to make sure the Big East has fair and proper access, also a fair and proper revenue share. I think I'll leave it at that. It's something I'll be looking at closely and heavily involved in, of course."

Q: Skip Holtz says the Big East's problem in football has to do with image and not product, just how the league is seen nationally. He believes naming a commissioner and signing a new TV deal can go a long way to correcting that. How important are those two things?

A: "Extremely important. The TV contract is Job 1. That's the most important thing I've got ahead of me in the immediate future. Much will depend on it. Obviously, the finanical stability of the Big East, the confidence the schools have, the self-esteem everyone will have up and down the line, not only the presidents and ADs, but the student-athletes. Everyone will feel better if we have a good contract, if we get the proper exposure, the right platforms, make sure the schools have what they need. That's going to be absolutely critical.

"I think Skip's absolutely right. Incidentally, I don't know Skip well, but I know his dad extremely well. Lou used to work in our studio at CBS. Many moments when we were able to talk privately. When you're in a studio during the day, there's some down time on a Saturday, and Lou and I used to talk all the time. Got to know him very well. He's a wonderful guy and a great friend. I look forward to seeing Skip and coming down to some games. South Florida has huge, huge upside.

"Skip's right: The perception has been an issue. The point I'm trying to make now and making pretty consistently this week, really trying to pound, is that this conference is now a national conference in football and basketball. It's not the Big East in the sense of the old Big East, basically the Northeastern part of the country. It has national scope.

"South Florida's always had the upside and they've achieved a lot. They lost, what, four games on the last play or so last year? You know how good they are. They go to Notre Dame and beat Notre Dame, they went to Florida State a few years ago and beat Florida State. Skip's done a great job with that program. It's just a matter of time. They're in a rich recruiting area where you are in Florida. Central Florida, they've had some issues, but they will now present some tremendous upside."

Q: Is there a chance you'll be in Tampa for USF-Rutgers on Thursday, Sept. 13?

A: "I'm planning on it. Doug Woolard and I have talked about that, and I'm planning on it. If nothing urgent comes up, I'll be there. I want to get down for that game. I think it would be absolutely great and I'm looking forward to it."

For much more of our conversation with Mike Aresco, check out the Times' USF blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls.

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