It wasn't long ago that the news leaking out was that the Big East was talking to ESPN about an early extension to the TV rights deal. Those discussions are reportedly over for the moment, though according to CBS Sports' Brett McMurphy, the Big East was very close to accepting ESPN's offer. That offer was rumored to be worth around $130 million per year for the conference.
Right before news of the Pac-12 TV deal broke, so did the Big East's interest in renewing it's vows with ESPN. Instead, the conference now plans to hold off on negotiating it's television rights until at least September 2012 — when ESPN's exclusive 60-day negotiating window opens.
The record-setting deals closed by other conferences gave the Big East the confidence it needed to hold off on getting a deal done early. As occurred with the other major conferences, at least three major bidders are expected to be involved in trying to purchase the Big East TV rights, and the competition among them could drive the value of a future conference higher and higher.
It is unlikely that the value of the Big East television package will decline between now and September 2012, and John Marinatto believes that being last in line for a contract has given them a, "distinct advantage." The marketplace has been set, the tea-leaves have been read and the Big East has a lot of information at it's fingertips to determine what it should get.
This means, of course, that while conference expansion is still on the table, it is not quite as urgent. The goal now, is to have expansion sorted out by September 2012 – anything sooner is unnecessary – so expect some due-diligence to take place.
That is particularly true where it seems that the conference may be beginning to move toward 12 members in football. How such an arrangement would be structured is unknown, of course, and Commissioner Marinatto hasn't taken any option off the table – not even a 20-member basketball conference.
Regardless of who any other new Big East members may be, the conference still has to deal with the Villanova football question, of course. According to McMurphy's sources, "there has to be a resolution to the Villanova question sooner than later."
Echoing Oliver Luck's comments from last week, Marinatto told reporters that if and when the Big East expands, they will add teams, "where we believe we can add value in terms of content."
The Big East officials spoke glowingly about the Pac-12 deal and seemed enamored with the idea of "adding inventory" to the football side of the conference and maximizing the TV value of the conference. The Big East, like Stella, appears to have it's groove back after watching the other major conferences cash in and will be barreling forward toward a new deal of it's own, starting in 2012.
The first offer that the Big East rejected would have paid the conference over $100 million less than the Pac-12 negotiated annually. How much of that gap can they bridge?