Day one of the Big East conference meetings in Florida involved coaches and athletics directors meeting to discuss conference business, wrap up the athletic year and prepare for next season. According to reports out of Ponte Vedra Beach, the conference's departing schools were not invited to the meetings, while the incoming schools appear to have been represented.
All current school coaches were in attendance except for Jim Calhoun (who has had numerous health issues recently) and Rick Pitino; SMU's Larry Brown and June Jones were also absent, apparently choosing the recruiting trail over the meetings, and Memphis coach Josh Pastner was similarly absent.
The most interesting development from the first day of the meetings was that the conference had invited representatives from NBC and Fox to give presentations about their networks and their plans for the conference's television deal. No numbers were discussed at the time, since ESPN has an exclusive negotiating window with the conference through the early fall. The presentations allow conference officials to "feel out" the interest from those networks before sitting down with ESPN.
From the Orlando Sentinel:
Representatives from NBC and Fox Sports networks outlined the value they see in the Big East, noting the league will have teams in 13 of the top 50 media markets spanning four time zones in 2013. Once newcomers UCF, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Temple, San Diego State and Boise State all join the league, the Big East will represent nearly 32 million television households -- twice as many as other conference in the country.
"There was excitement over the TV presentation possibilities," [Cincy coach Mick] Cronin said. "The Big East can't negotiate now but there was interest in our product. You could see people spending valuable time on the presentations and they say we'll be even stronger with the media market changes in adding Dallas, Houston and Orlando, which only helps the big picture."
They also met with media consultants who advised on how to "position the league to best maximize TV revenue." The hope is that multiple interested bidders will drive the price up for the conference's television rights.
The ACC has a redone contract with ESPN that has their teams slated to earn an average of $17 million per year, but that contract never touched the open market. The ACC was locked into a deal with the worldwide leader that they had signed a year ago, so ESPN was only bidding against themselves. The Big East will have the benefit of competition from Fox Sports and NBC, both of which are trying to expand their college sports offerings.
All of the athletic directors — basketball and football schools —met together during the meetings. Apparently, even when the football coaches and athletic directors were discussing their preferences for the BCS playoff format (they prefer a system where only league champions are included).
The revenue that the league is able to derive from that playoff, along with the television contract, will constitute an important part of the FBS schools' annual revenues. If the numbers are favorable, the league could emerge stronger than before.
"Everything that’s being discussed at some level is going to include the performance of the teams in each conference," Big East associate commissioner Nick Carparelli told ESPN. "If you look historically at the number of teams we’ve had ranked, revenue-wise, we’ll do fine. Some conference may end up making more revenue than others but it’s probably deserved. And in the end, the pool of money is going to be so much greater this time around, we feel pretty confident we’ll have an increase in revenue we will be getting."
There has also been concern that some new members, specifically Boise State, would renege on their commitment to the conference. Boise had planned to put its basketball team and other sports into the WAC, but that conference has seemed to implode and is down to just five members going forward. Boise has not yet officially withdrawn from the Mountain West Conference, and there was speculation that the Olympic sports drama could have them thinking twice. Reports came out that they had been talking to MWC officials a few weeks ago, but MWC officials told Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman that it was a "one time opportunity" to reconsider and that Boise had ended the discussions last week.
Tomorrow the meetings continue. Divisions will be discussed and a few options for how to structure the new, larger league will be generated but no decision would be finalized until later in the summer. Football will have to be divided into two divisions, but there has not been any indication whether basketball or olympic sports will also have a split format.
After the first day of the meetings ended, Jay Wright told the Orlando Sentinel that he was confident about the league's future.
"We've been through this so many times," he told the paper. "I remember seven years ago when Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech left, everybody thought that was going to be it. We thought we were done. And we wound up being better than ever. And so I really look at it the same way. It's going to be different, but it's going to be better and it's going to be exciting."