Five million per school annually is the number being thrown around by the latest media reports, but where is the process in reality? The old Big East had an offer that could have paid a similar amount (to the C7) on the table prior to the announced departures of Syracuse and Pittsburgh; perhaps out of hubris, the Big East turned that offer from ESPN down.
The C7 can't let hubris derail their television negotiations. According to accounts, ESPN lost interest in the Big East negotiations after being turned down. Media accounts have also suggested that ESPN hasn't tossed it's hat in the ring for the C7's TV rights just yet. The Worldwide Leader has the broadest distribution of any sports network, both on television and digital, in America -- and by a large margin.
A reported $500 million dollar, 12 year contract offer from FOX should be considered preliminary at this point. That story dropped just days after the C7 Presidents announced that they had retained the services of Pilson Communications to consult on television negotiations and options for their league, as well as the services of Proskauer Rose, an AMLaw 100 firm that has a broad corporate practice.
The Catholic 7 likely won't sign off on any contracts, television or otherwise, until the corporate entity that will comprise their league is formed. They could sign a deal before that point, but since they are likely to form a corporation as the legal entity that represents their conference, it makes sense to wait until that hurdle has been jumped at least. In theory, that process could be completed in relatively short-order, of course, though the C7 will likely want to discuss and create bylaws and other specifics before continuing.
Pilson is likely to step into the process now to represent the Catholic 7's interests and to feel out the marketplace for their TV rights. If the reported figures are correct, it is potentially a good sign for the Catholic 7, as NBC and CBS also are in need of content for their respective networks. Pilson will attempt to use that large early offer as leverage to try and incite a bidding war among those networks -- and maybe bait ESPN into joining in.
In the end, the league could wind up with more than one television partner.
Then again, it could be possible that FOX's bid is far above and beyond what any other network is looking to bid. If that is the case, the C7 would just need to hope that the offer stays on the table as they explore options.
It would be difficult to agree to a television contract without some idea which schools would be members of the conference and when the league would begin operation. It wouldn't be impossible, but without definite membership, a television network would have a hard time valuing a league and planning scheduling. Without a definite start date, the network would potentially be left hanging for an indeterminate amount of time.
Both items will be dealt with. If a mega-offer comes in before those matters are settled, you can bet that the network bidding will want a say in the membership of the C7 league. If Fox thinks the league is worth $500 million, they may be envisioning a coast-to-coast hoops league to go west for Gonzaga, for example.
Things remain preliminary for the C7, but the retention of legal counsel and media advisers should help accelerate the process.
They should avoid the hubris of creating a caste system where some founding members receive more than others from the television deal -- a set-up that could offend some potential partners or lead to hard feelings and difficult politics later on. That said, if the money could work out to pay between $4 and $5 million to each school annually for the next 12 years, that would be a great start for the league.
Next, they just need to agree to invest that windfall into their programs.