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Will NBC Sports Vie For Big East TV Deal?

Will the Worldwide Leader be pushed by NBC Sports (Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE)
Will the Worldwide Leader be pushed by NBC Sports (Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE)

We've got little idea what type of TV the deal the Big East will be able to net once the conference is officially on the market. But Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News says 'sources' claim NBC Sports may be willing to go in for up to $14 million for basketball and football-playing members.

That's a pretty staggering sum for a conference that reportedly turned down a deal for $11 - $13 million from ESPN when it was actually a bit stronger.

A bit stronger, you say? Well, I don't necessarily think so, anyway. Weiss? He thinks the conference may actually be in better shape than it was before.

More specifically, Weiss says the league has a chance to be better:

Now, ironically, with West Virgiina leaving for the Big 12 and Pitt and Syracuse dpearting for the ACC, the Big East has a chance to become a better conference than it was in the past. The league has rebranded itself as a national conference with South Florida, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Connecticut, Louisville, Temple, Boise State, San Diego State, SMU, Houston, Memphis, Central Florida and Navy, all arriving by 2015, giving it teams in all four time zones.

Weiss' argument seems to lie largely in the fact that the Big East is, well, everywhere. Ultimately, other conferences will start to add teams without strong geographic ties, but I'm not sure that is really the reason the Big East could be better. The strongest conferences out there - namely the big four (and the ACC if you want to tack them on as fifth) are that way because they have produced results on the field ... not because they cover a large territory.

So, let's look at some on-field results. We all understand that Syracuse has struggled pretty badly in football in recent memory. Pitt had some recent success, but was never able to translate it into a conference title under Dave Wannstedt. West Virginia is the only one of the three that had any kind of sustained success.

Even with that overall feeling of 'meh' regarding the three as a whole, I'm not fully convinced that even by the end of 2015, the Big East will have much more quality than it did before the last-round of expansion hit. There will be more average programs, sure, but I'm not sure how many will be better than West Virginia, or even Pitt when it comes to football. Even if a few of those programs are, the added teams cause a bigger split in revenue, don't forget, and will mean less on a per school basis.

And in terms of basketball, none of those programs can even touch what the trio did for the Big East with the exception of a Memphis, who had some success under old coach John Calipari. Plus, as we've discussed before, Pitt and Syracuse add a great deal in terms of academics.

But getting back to that figure mentioned by Weiss - can the Big East draw that much? Beats me, but all it takes is two interested parties to create a bit of a bidding war and the conference seemingly has that with ESPN and NBC. The other thing to keep in mind is that these types of opportunities aren't available all the time for networks. There are a very small amount of major college football conferences out there and because these deals last several years, missing the boat now could mean sitting on the sidelines for a while.

The one factor sure to play a role in things is the instability of the conference. Teams such as Boise State, Louisville, UConn, and Cincinnati are going to draw at least casual interest by other conferences. The winning bidder will need to negotiate some sort of deal with the disclaimer that the league's best schools aren't poached or have a strong confidence they won't be.

Still, despite ranking the lowest on the totem pole of major conferences, the Big East could be in line for a sizeable payday.
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