SBD/December 8, 2011/Colleges

Big East Formally Announces Addition Of Five Schools, Creating National Footprint

Boise State and San Diego State will join Big East as football-only members
The Big East yesterday formally announced the addition of Central Florida, Houston and SMU as full members of the conference, and Boise State and San Diego State as football-only members. UCF, Houston and SMU will begin competing in the Big East in the '13-14 season, while Boise State and San Diego State will start competing in football in the '13 season. With the addition of the five schools, the conference will have the largest media footprint in college football (Big East). Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said that the conference, which will not change its name, "will be divided into two divisions in football in an East and West format, but the makeup of the divisions hasn't been officially decided." Big East Associate Commissioner/Communications John Paquette said that the conference "wouldn't release the entrance fee for the five schools as a matter of policy" (ESPN.com, 12/7).

READY FOR THEIR CLOSE-UP: In Boise, Chadd Cripe notes Boise State hopes the move "will provide more revenue for the athletic department, increase exposure for the university" and "create better bowl access." Most of the school's other sports "will return to the WAC, the league the Broncos left in July after a decade of success." Boise State "expects to receive at least $4 million more in conference revenue from the Big East and WAC in 2013-14 than it would from its Mountain West membership." That number "could jump by several million dollars when the league signs a new TV contract for 2014 and beyond." Boise State President Bob Kustra, when he "accepted a Mountain West invite in summer 2010, shrugged off concerns about the Mountain West’s TV deal, which put games on Versus, CBS Sports Network and The Mtn. and ended the Broncos’ successful partnership with ESPN." But Cripe notes Boise State "didn’t enjoy their new TV home this season" (IDAHO STATESMAN, 12/8). Meanwhile, in Houston, Sam Khan notes UH will "benefit from an expected financial windfall when the Big East renegotiates its TV agreements with ESPN and CBS next September." Marinatto said that adding the Houston and Dallas-Ft. Worth markets "is significant as the league prepares for its next TV rights deals" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/8).

MONEY TALKS: In San Diego, Brent Schrotenboer writes the "move is about money" for SDSU. The school in the MWC "only received about $1.5 million annually in league TV revenue," but by moving to the Big East, SDSU estimates it "could fetch $6.4 million to $10 million annually in TV rights money." Another $1.8M "could come from shared bowl revenue in a league with access to more lucrative bowl games." SDSU President Elliot Hirshman said, “An important aspect of this is financial stabilization.” SDSU AD Jim Sterk said that the school "had a $3.3 million deficit to pay back as recently as two years ago." Those "financial pressures even forced the department to eliminate 25 full-time jobs." Sterk said that there is a $2.5M "entry fee to join the Big East," which would be "taken out of SDSU's TV money and would be paid over five years" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 12/8). In California, Dan Hayes notes besides football, none of SDSU's 18 sports "have switched conferences yet." A source said that men's basketball "is expected to join" either the Big West Conference or the WAC. The school's agreement with the Big East includes a provision that SDSU "will play four games per season against Big East opponents" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 12/8).

QUESTIONS REMAIN: In Newark, Tom Luicci notes there are "clearly more questions than answers" about the Big East's future. Luicci: "Will the new additions -- and two more are expected -- help the league when it goes to the bargaining table to negotiate a new TV deal next fall? Will the league, in its reconfigured form, be able to retain its automatic entry into the BCS bowl lineup when the current contract expires after the 2013 season -- if there are any more automatic BCS qualifiers after that?" Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti said, "It's a good first step but it's certainly not over. The important thing is the rest of it gets executed the right way." Big East Associate Commissioner for Football Nick Carparelli said, "There's more work to be done. But what this does is it opens a lot of new TV markets and it gives us exposure in all four time zones in the United States to really enable the Big East brand to grow -- and to get stronger." Carparelli added that the new Big East "has been well received by TV consultants." Luicci notes that is "important because the league is the only BCS conference with a television contract up for renewal a year from now" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 12/8). ESPN's Mark Schlabach said, "For the short term, it really adds to the Big East television contract negotiations, which was a concern, and led to some of the current schools defecting" ("College Football Live," ESPN, 12/6).

DOING WHAT IT HAS TO DO: ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson wrote the Big East "had little choice but to add" the schools. After Pitt, Syracuse, TCU and West Virginia left the conference, the league "had to do something to remain viable." But "none of this makes much geographical sense." Adelson: "Because the Big East was indeed a sinking ship in desperate need of a life preserver, it had to trade in the Backyard Brawl for some Red-Eye Rivalry." These moves are "more of a stopgap measure and less of a stabilizing force." Once the "conference seas start shifting again, you can bet some of the current members are going to want to jump as quickly as Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia and TCU did" (ESPN.com, 12/7). SportsNet N.Y.'s Marc Malusis said of the Big East's reputation across the country, "They've obviously taken the hit with the loss of West Virginia, Pitt and Syracuse, but this helps them down the line keeping in the BCS conference” ("The Wheelhouse," SportsNet N.Y., 12/7). ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil wrote, "This is nothing shy of a wholesale trade-in on the very foundation of the conference. In both [Big East founder Dave] Gavitt’s vision and the conference’s 32-year execution, the Big East was and has always been a basketball league." Now the conference "has tossed that all on the trash heap to fall in lockstep with the legion of Magoos, watering down its basketball product to hitch its wagon to the almighty football dollar." O'Neil: "And it's not even a good-looking wagon. It's a listing wagon with a broken wheel" (ESPN.com, 12/7).
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