New Big East Celebrates ‘Reboot’ With New Fox Sports Rights Deal
Stability. It’s not a word one would use to describe college athletics lately, and yet that was the theme Wednesday afternoon as the curtain was lifted on what will be the new Big East Conference.
“Our decision to separate from the football schools was motivated mainly by the feeling that the football/basketball model was unstable and we were looking for stability,” Providence College President the Rev. Brian J. Shanley said at the press conference. “I want — and I think our coaches and ADs feel the same way — to be able to recruit [student-athletes] to come to Providence College and [be able to] say, for the next 12 years, here are the schools you are going to be playing with; we don’t need to worry this year somebody’s out, next year somebody is in.”
The conference presidents formally announced three new member universities (Creighton, Butler, and Xavier), a continued relationship with Madison Square Garden to host the conference’s men’s basketball tournament, and a shiny new 12-year deal with Fox Sports. According to a Reuters source, the deal is worth between $500 million and $600 million.
“We hope that this is one step further in the stabilization of college sports today,” said Fox Sports Co-President/COO Randy Freer. “We think we get a great deal of value out of this. It brings to us top-tier college basketball that we can explore and experience and bring our production values to. It creates opportunities across the board and creates a tremendous amount of programming hours over the course of the winter that will really help us build Fox Sports 1. We’re excited about it.”
The agreement grants Fox Sports rights to all conference-controlled men’s basketball games, selected rights to women’s basketball, rights to all Olympic sports, and extensive rights for highlights and to produce ancillary programming.
Fox Sports 1, which launches in August, is slated to televise more than 100 men’s regular-season basketball games next season. The network is also scheduled to carry the entire Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament each season, live from Madison Square Garden, the tournament’s home since 1983, and the longest-running conference tournament played at one venue.
Freer also added that Big East games will be made available on Fox Sports 1’s digital platform, Fox Sports Go, and that the network will assist the Big East in speaking with prospective technology vendors about establishing a digital network of its own.
A Return to Roots
Beginning with the 2013-14 academic year, the reconstituted Big East Conference will comprise Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova, and Xavier. Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s and Seton Hall are founding members of the conference, which began play in 1979. Villanova was added in 1980, and DePaul and Marquette joined in 2005.
“We could not have wished for a better start,” said Georgetown President Dr. Jack DeGioia. “We have 10 incredible schools; we’ve kept our storied name and maintained our relationship with a tremendous venue like Madison Square Garden.”
Built in the 1980s as a basketball conference, the Big East became more reliant on football over the next two decades. The institutions that did not play football — at least at the FBS level — found the balance between the two marquee sports difficult. The Big East now returns to its roots as a basketball-centric, Catholic-heavy league.
“We look at the integrity and the coherence of our programs,” said DeGioia. “This is what makes sense for us. To take football to the BCS level is just not who we are. It’s not our identity; it doesn’t make sense. What we had was the capacity to bring together these institutions in a way to ensure that our students engaged in the intercollegiate athletics have the best possible experience.”
What’s left to do is to select a commissioner. The conference has retained Russell Reynolds Associates, a senior-executive search firm, to assist in the search. In addition, the Big East presidents have brought aboard former Ohio Valley and Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe to serve as consultant. He will work with the schools’ athletic directors in building the league’s structure from the ground up.
As for taking the Big East name, everyone at the press conference agreed that it is a key component in the “rebooting” of the conference.
Said Rev. Shanley, “It is strong, and it is memorable. It is bold, and it’s associated with some of the greatest moments in college basketball in the last 35 years.”
It’s a name that everyone involved hopes can again stand for something stable.