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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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The Biggest Takeaways From 2023 Big East Media Day

  • The Big East has not been impacted by the seismic wave of realignment over the summer — and is now dealing from a position of strength.
  • The conference is gearing up to negotiate a new media rights deal in the winter, and hopes to continue its relationship with Fox.
The Big East is dealing from a position of strength.
Amanda Christovich – FOS

NEW YORK — In 2013, football-centric conference realignment tore the Big East apart. There was plenty of skepticism about whether the newly rebuilt conference would survive, commissioner Val Ackerman said at Big East Media Day on Tuesday. 

But 10 years later, the conference boasts a men’s national champion in the UConn Huskies, an array of high-profile coaches including returner Rick Pitino, and a raucous tournament at Madison Square Garden. Big East Media Day was the most well-attended in a decade, a conference spokesperson said during opening remarks. 

The Big East has not been impacted by the seismic wave of realignment over the summer — and is dealing from a position of strength as it considers expansion and gears up to negotiate a new media rights deal.

No Expansion Now 

Over the past two years, the Big East has considered adding Gonzaga — and had to fight off the Big 12’s inquiry into UConn, which rejoined in 2020. 

But the conference’s presidents have decided to stay at 11 members “for now,” Ackerman told Front Office Sports, even though it has received inquiries from a number of schools interested in joining.

“There really hasn’t been any school that is sort of, exactly perfect — including in geography,” she said. 

Ackerman hasn’t ruled out the possibility that the conference could pursue expansion in the near future, though it would be unlikely that a new school would come in before the conference’s current media deal ends in 2025. The next deal would likely include a fee structure for if the conference added or lost members, Ackerman said, as is the case in the current deal. 

Negotiating a New Media Deal 

This winter, the Big East will begin negotiations for a new media deal after the current package with Fox and CBS expires in 2025. 

The conference has retained investment firm Allen and Company to help with the negotiations, which will begin with an exclusive window between the Big East and current partners. 

“We are very hopeful about our future with Fox — they’ve been a great partner,” she said. In 2013, the re-booted Big East launched together with the FS1 channel, and the two have grown together over the past decade. 

“Basketball is America’s game,” Ackerman said. “It’s the sport that brings the country together in March. We have one of the most storied brands in the game of basketball…so we think we bring tremendous value to a network in ways that go beyond ad sales.”

The current package with Fox and CBS pays out a little less than $6 million per school per year, according to tax returns. The conference hopes to get increased rights fees, Ackerman said — as any conference would. 

Geography Matters

Both Ackerman and coaches appear relieved at how the Big East’s lack of football has insulated it from the latest round of conference realignment. 

Georgetown’s Ed Cooley and St. John’s Pitino — both in their first years on the job — emphasized the potential issues other conferences will face creating coast-to-coast basketball schedules. 

Cooley noted it could negatively impact athletes’ well-being, as well as be impractical.

“Other conferences — they’re diminishing the importance of geography,” Ackerman said. “But they haven’t yet played cross-country schedules yet either. We’ll be interested to see how that works out for them.”

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