SBJ/March 18-24, 2013/Colleges

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  • New world greets IMG-Big East talks

    IMG College’s multimedia rights with the old Big East Conference expire in June, sending both sides to the negotiating table for a new contract that’s expected to look significantly different.

    Among the points being negotiated are marketing rights to a conference football championship game, something the Big East has never had before.

    The conference intended to stage a title game at the end of the 2013 season, but Boise State and San Diego State withdrew in January, eliminating the possibility of a championship game. More football-playing schools — East Carolina, Tulane and Navy are committed — will be added in the future, which would drive membership to the 12 teams or more needed for a title game by 2015.

    The old Big East also is regrouping after the split of its football and basketball schools, the latter known as the Catholic 7 schools. Their departure sapped many of the top basketball brands from the old Big East, and potentially could cost the conference a date in Madison Square Garden for its basketball tournament.

    The Catholic 7 is taking the “Big East” name with them. DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova represent the Catholic 7, which reportedly will add two to three new schools.

    The old Big East will have a new name by June. Members for the 2013 football season will be Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, SMU, Rutgers, South Florida and Temple. Louisville leaves for the ACC and Rutgers departs for the Big Ten in 2014.

    Rex Hough, who oversees the Northeast region for IMG College, said the two sides are in negotiations, and a conference official for the old Big East said both sides expect to extend their multimedia rights relationship.

    “Legally speaking, our contract is with the old Big East and that’s how we’re moving forward,” Hough said.

    The old Big East’s contracts, from office leases to bowl contracts and the IMG College multimedia rights deal, remain the property of the old conference office led by Commissioner Mike Aresco, not the Catholic 7.

    But with the IMG College contract expiring at the end of the 2013 fiscal year in June, the deal had to be redone anyway.
    Before the Catholic 7 can move forward with its own multimedia rights agreement, it must first hire a commissioner.
    Hough said that IMG College has had some preliminary discussions with the Catholic 7, but the new conference hasn’t formally issued a request for proposals.

    “I can tell you that there’s a lot of interest in the marketplace about the new conference, especially where they’ll be playing their basketball championship,” Hough said.

    The Catholic 7 is expected to try to keep its tournament at Madison Square Garden, where the Big East has crowned its champion for 31 years.

    The Big East tournament represented 90 percent of the value in the conference’s old multimedia rights deal. It was a premium event on a huge stage that attracted sponsors such as American Eagle Outfitters, Reese’s, Geico, Sunkist and New York Life.

    That could eat into whatever value IMG College places on the old Big East. Conference deals typically aren’t as lucrative as individual school deals anyway. Even the largest conferences might earn $4 million to $5 million a year, while conferences at the next tier, like a Big East or Catholic 7, would generate roughly $1 million to $2 million a year in revenue, according to industry sources. Conferences simply don’t offer as much inventory as individual schools.

    However, there remains the potential of a conference championship football game in the old Big East, which would represent all new inventory and increase the value of a deal.

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