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Television has a "heavy hand in sports leagues and conferences" in this day and age, and Big East Conference officials "has turned to a television executive to shape their future" with the hiring of Mike Aresco as commissioner, according to ESPN's Joe Tessitore. Aresco previously worked as CBS Sports Exec VP/Programming and crafted the deals that "put the SEC into the spotlight, put Thursday night primetime football on the air and ‘Bowl Week’ into your lexicon.” Aresco said of joining the Big East, “This is a terrific opportunity. It's an opportunity to reinvent an already great conference. It obviously has a proud history and tradition. The conference, I think now, has vast potential. I wouldn't have taken this job if I didn't believe that." He noted the upcoming negotiations around the Big East's television contract "is job one." Tessitore asked, “Is it as simple as scoring big and getting the cash in TV negotiations, or what else has to happen for the Big East to get back to the status it once had?” Aresco said the "perception has to change, and I'm going to work very hard on that." Aresco: "I'm going to be a tireless and relentless promoter of the conference because I believe in it. What has to happen in the negotiation, obviously, you want to do well financially and in the end, the Big East will be recognized and maximized. Also, you want to assure the best possible exposure for the schools and their programs, both in football and basketball. That a key also. You want to make sure that the inventory is intelligently allocated, that it allows everyone to get the kind of exposure they need” ("College Football Live," ESPN, 8/14). Aresco said of the importance of the next TV contract, "It would be hard to overstate it. I consider it job one. All eyes are going to be on it. I'm not making any predictions, but I'm very confident our value is going to be recognized and maximized" (AP, 8/14).
TOUGH BUT FAIR NEGOTIATOR: Former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese said, "In a business where honesty at times is not in great supply, I would tell you that I negotiated a bunch of contracts with Mike, and they were difficult but always fair and direct. He's very detail-oriented. He knows everybody in the college landscape. He's got relationships with everybody -- with (Big Ten commissioner) Jim Delany and (Southeastern Conference commissioner) Mike Slive, which is important." Tranghese added, "He knows everybody in the television business" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/14). CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said, "Negotiations are very, very tough deals, but he always shakes hands and walks away, personally and professionally, respected and usually liked, by the people who he was negotiating with -- that's not always true in this business" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/15). Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures has been retained by the conference to be its lead negotiator in the TV talks, and company co-Founder & CEO Chris Bevilacqua said of Aresco, "Mike has obviously been around, not only in the Big East, but the college guy at CBS for many years. He knows how college sports work, the important relationship elements. He's attuned to all of that. I think that's going to be very valuable." He added that the conference "will not suffer at the negotiating table because of its defections or perceived instability" (NEWSDAY, 8/15). ESPN's Darren Rovell said, "I don't think there's any doubt that, especially with what Larry Scott has done in the Pac-12, that the biggest role of the commissioner is not about rules or overseeing anything other than figuring out the TV deal because that's what everyone wants” ("College Football Live," ESPN, 8/14).
BIG EAST STILL IMPORTANT PROPERTY: Marketing Group International CEO Bob Gutkowski said, "Mike is a terrific choice. He's very knowledgeable on the college TV scene, a strong negotiator and understands [the] landscape. I don't think they could have done any better than they did." He added, "I still think (the Big East) is an important product and there will be a lot of competition for it. I think if anyone can do it, under the leadership of Mike, they have a pretty good chance." In Hartford, Jeff Otterbein writes the key "will be how Aresco can leverage all this vs. the thought that the Big East is a crumbling football league" (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/15). JMI Sports Capital & Media Division Managing Dir Tom Stultz said, "There are some really compelling parts to the (Big East's) offering. You have the northeast corridor. There has to be some media players that want to get into the college space and who want to send a signal they're here and ready to play." Sports Media Consultant and former CBS Sports President Neal Pilson said, "If the Big East schools hang together, I believe they can secure a new TV deal equal to or better than the last offer from ESPN, because the media competition for their rights will be intense." Stultz said Aresco is an "incredible" hire (ESPN.com, 8/14). SportsNet N.Y.’s Chris Carlin said, “Even though the conference has been ... catching a lot of heat for falling apart the last couple of years, I do think there's going to be a bit of a bidding war between (ESPN) and a few other outlets” ("Loud Mouths," SportsNet N.Y., 8/14).
BENEFITING FROM HIS BUSINESS SENSE: In Tampa, Greg Auman notes though Aresco has "never worked for a conference or school, his TV experience will factor heavily in his new job in the coming months." Univ. of South Florida AD Doug Woolard said, "It's an absolute terrific hire for us. I think television has always had a significant impact on college athletics, probably no more so than in the last couple of years." Auman writes there is "hope his tenure is steadier than that of John Marinatto, who in the past year saw four schools -- TCU, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse -- announce they are leaving for other BCS leagues" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/15). Rutgers Univ. AD Tim Pernetti said of Aresco, "He's a high integrity guy, he's got great relationships, good consensus builder, he's been around the business and seen it all" (NJ.com, 8/14). Univ. of Houston AD Mack Rhoades: "He's a dynamic leader, a visionary. He will be a consensus builder." Rhoades added, "It's a huge bonus that you have somebody that has been at the table and has been through the process and negotiated some terrific TV deals" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/15).
PLENTY OF POSITIVE REACTION: ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson wrote under the header, "Big East Wins The Day With Aresco Hire." The Big East "proved itself forward-thinking and visionary." This is a "bold move, made to ensure this conference not only survives into the future -- but thrives into the future" (ESPN.com, 8/14). CBSSPORTS.com's Dennis Dodd wrote under the header, "Big East Hits A Home Run With CBS' Aresco." Dodd: "The slap-hitter known as the Big East hit the shot heard around college athletics. At least as far as commissioners go" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/14). Sportswriter Mark Blaudschun wrote the conference "that seemed to keep doing the wrong things at the wrong times, finally got it right when it went to Aresco." Presuming he "lets people like Senior Associate Commissioner Nick Carparelli and the rest of the Big East support staff do their jobs," Aresco will "take the Big East to the next level" (AJERSEYGUY.com, 8/14). ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan wrote "conference commissioners are typically predictable," but "thanks to the Big East, that mold has officially been broken." Aresco has "never worked for a conference or a university," which is "exactly why he's the right man for the job." What the Big East needs is "someone who knows best how to sell what it has to TV networks (namely CBS and ESPN) interested in buying." Brennan: "Practically speaking, it's a great hire" (ESPN.com, 8/14).
College football is “headed for a brave new world,” and the Big Ten is “better positioned than most to thrive in it, thanks to some hard-fought victories eked out" by Commissioner Jim Delany, according to Austin Murphy of SI.com. Delany is “widely regarded as one of the smartest men in college athletics,” and has “long been accustomed to dictating terms, calling the shots.” However, in the “high-stakes drama that dominated this past offseason -- shaping the format of the Football Bowl Subdivision’s now-inevitable playoff -- he found himself working with less leverage than usual.” Delany and his allies nevertheless "were flexible and open-minded” as the SEC “basically drew a line in the sand -- a four-team college football playoff should include the four best teams, period." Murphy: "A once-and-former anti-playoff zealot, Delany became a kind of shape-shifting pragmatist. Rather than engage the SEC head-on, he employed skirmishing tactics." His "strategy was basically to throw a bunch of ideas against the wall and see what stuck." In the end, the Big Ten “came out ahead of where it would have if the commissioner had been less willing to compromise.” The selection committee determined it is going to choose "the ‘best four teams’ -- but with an emphasis on conference champions.” That “emphasis” was a “win for Delany and the Big Ten.” Murphy: "Thanks to Delany's insistence that conference champions be given most-favored-nation status, as it were, Big Ten teams will show up more often in the national title mix than they would have otherwise" (SI.com, 8/13).