2011 Big East Media Day Recap: Horned Frogs, Expansionism, Prognostications, And Leprechauns (Without The Leprechauns Part)

Round and round the circle goes. The 2011 Big East Media Day didn't really give us a lot of new information in terms of actual decisions, and if you were looking for bombshell news, you'll just have to stay tuned to TMZ.

So what did come out of the annual gathering?

Things kicked off in grand style with controversy, Mr. Krabs style. Seriously, if running out of lobsters at a lobster-eating contest is going to happen to any BCS conference, would you pick anyone other than the Big East?

The biggest piece of (useful) news may have been that TCU's 2012 conference schedule came out. No, seriously. The Horned Frogs will visit Pitt next season in what should be a sellout. In fact, Pitt Script has a good recap about Pitt's 2012 home schedule, which will be a good one. For the record, TCU will also travel to UConn, Rutgers, and Syracuse meaning they get West Virginia, South Florida, Louisville, and Cincinnati at home.

But that's a year away - how about 2011?

Well, West Virginia was predictably picked as the No. 1 team and you'll get no argument out of me on that one. Pitt came in at second meaning most media members voting think the Backyard Brawl could have something to do with determining the league champ. And we've already gone into great length about why that game will not suck.

But that doesn't mean Pitt and Todd Graham are going to lay down and fight for second place:

"The expectations are what they are," Graham said "At the University of Pittsburgh, they're about winning championships. Anything less than that is not going to be acceptable.

"You walk in our building and it says nine-time national champion, it says expect 10," he said.

If nothing else, fans should be welcoming all the talk about not only Big East titles, but national championships from Graham - regardless of how great Pitt's reach may be.

But the Big East is about more than Pitt and West Virginia. Okay, well, sort of. So, John Marinatto did his best to sell the league as a whole and not just a few individual teams:

"All of our teams can realistically make a run at a bowl game or vie for the conference championship this season," Marinatto said. "All eight of our schools have won a bowl game the last four years. While I acknowledge that we didn't have our best season in 2010, all of us our confident that last season was an aberration."

I don't even know where to start with this. #2010Aberration?

Going back to WVU, glad to see Bruce Irvin kept it classy. And Todd Graham is still on the high-octane kick, apparently:

Graham used the phrase "high-octane" several times during his remarks, and Panther fans should get excited for what it could mean for the offense this fall. Not only will it lead to exciting football, but Graham actually believes that it will better suit quarterback Tino Sunseri as well. According to Graham, moving the returning starter back into the shotgun "accentuates" his talents.

Anyway, so there's this whole expansion thing. Again.

We've been over this enough times to make your head spin and Greg looked at the Villanova issue yesterday. So with all the same tired horses being beaten (i.e. Memphis, Central Florida, East Carolina, et al), time to explore some new options. Paul Zeise of the PG has lots of potential candidates including Army/Navy (yes, I consider them as one entity), Maryland, Boston College, Kansas, Missouri, and Kansas State, to name a few.

Yep, the whole geography thing seems to be going out the window:

Presently, the Big East is really only a conference in name with Louisville, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, DePaul and Marquette in the league, and TCU set to come aboard next year. Marinatto addressed the awkward nature of having conferences today covering many different geographic areas.

"From an administrator's standpoint our attitude has always been we’ll find a way to make it work," he said. "From a practical standpoint, when you look at the TCU addition, and the way some people reacted to that, I remember saying at the time to so many people if a conference that is called the Big Ten can have 12 schools and a conference that is called the Big 12 can have 10 schools, why can’t the Big East have a school in Dallas, Texas? There is nothing wrong with that."

Meanwhile, Pitt A.D. Steve Pederson apparently prefers to look to Florida:

‘‘You have to look at several areas,’’ said Pederson, who is in favor of adding another Florida market, which Central Florida (Orlando) would bring. ‘‘Television market is a key factor and do they fit into what you want to do?’’

Well, yeah, but it's not the only thing. If it were, I've got to believe Pederson would be much higher on the idea of trying to add Villanova and its Philly eyeballs. And getting back to the geography thing - looking further West is the only way that the Big East will add real quality to the conference.

The Big East may need some fresh views on expansion, but they won't get them from TCU A.D. Chris Del Conte, who was in attendance mostly doing his best not to pull a Bartman as a spectator. In other words, he's got nothin':

"Those decisions are way above my pay grade," said TCU’s athletic director. "What we want to do is come in and help preserve the Big East and what the conference stands for. The founding members are the history of this league and that must be preserved. Then you look at a team like us and you ask what we can add to the mosaic. I am just happy that we are in the league and have this opportunity. I am hopeful we can add a lot of value to the league as we move forward."

I don't have the strength to look hard at expansion right now. Plus, while it's fun, TV deals are pretty important and were the big talking point. And Zeise also has a quick rundown of how the TV deal situation has shaped out thus far (hate to clip so much of this but I think it's important to see it all in context):

The Cliff Notes version of the background on this is that ESPN came to the Big East an offered a 7-year deal for football and basketball worth about $11 million per school.

The basketball schools said let's jump at it, Big East commissioner John Marinatto was on board, and Pederson and the football schools stepped in and said "we can do better."

There was division, there was some arguing, there was some splintering UNTIL Comcast/NBC got into the game and began driving prices up to the point where the Pac-12 got $3 billion over 12 years.

That's when everybody in the conference got on board and said, "let's wait this thing out" - and now the Big East is the last of the major conferences without a new deal which means it has some leverage on NBC/Comcast since the network is desperate to get into the college sports business.

Like one official said to me "imagine being a free agent third baseman and finding out that ARod just got hurt and the Yankees are in the market for a third baseman. That's where we are - Comcast is like the Yankees, they are driving the price of doing business up for everyone, including us."

In other words, conference officials hope they can create a bidding war and get a far more lucrative package from ESPN than the original offer from a few months ago (the hope is the deal reaches the $16 million per team per year range, which is about $3 million more per team than the ACC deal).

Marinatto continued and said they were closer to striking a deal than perhaps originally believed:

"We were very close," Marinatto said. "But when the day came when we had to make the decision, the Pac-12 decision was made the day before. The ACC, Big 10, Big 12 changed the world. The Pac-12 dramatically changed it. We were all shocked. They reset the marketplace. There was splintering before that, but on that day we were unanimous walking away."

To this point, the Big East has been a little beetle compared to the other five BCS-league deals. The Pac-12 signed a 12-year, $3 billion television deal with ESPN and Fox. The six-year, $200 million Big East deal expires in basketball in 2012 and football in 2014. ESPN has a 60-day window of exclusive negotiating rights that ends in November 2012.

"We will be thoughtful and we will be self-serving," Marinatto said.

And if attendance by the networks at the media day is any indication, the Big East may indeed be in good shape:

Among the potential suitors in Sept. 2012: ESPN, NBC, CBS and FOX. All had representatives at the Big East Media Days, when none (except ESPN, the current partner) ventured here in previous years.

It seems there's lots of leverage. If the Big East has networks tripping over themselves, well, that's a good thing. Money in the ACC range is obviously realistic, but other than that, it's hard to say.

The key could be in the fact that even though so much time has elapsed, there's still plenty of it left:

The de facto deadline for any move the Big East will make is September 2012, when the 60-day exclusive negotiating window begins with ESPN.

In that case, the Big East would probably be best served by continuing to wait it out. I mean, think about it - if the conference is fortunate enough to add someone like a Missouri or three other teams and get to a championship game, the money would undoubtedly have to be greater.

And just in case you were curious, Pitt was represented by Jarred Holley, Brandon Lindsey, Myles Caragein, and Mike Shanahan. They might not have said anything of substance, but at least they were there:

I’m not at the Big East Media Day in Newport, R.I., (a shame, because the night-before clambake is not to be missed), and neither are four University of Louisville players who embarked for the event yesterday. Weather/travel issues will keep them away from the function, according to the C-J’s C.L. Brown.

And just in case you wanted more, the Big East website has audio and video up of the festivities.

Fun, fun, fun.

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