While the soon to be renamed Big East is banking on increased exposure with its new television deal, there is a reported clause negotiated into the contract that could leave the league back at square one.
Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reports that the seven-year deal could be terminated should the league lose two more schools to conference realignment. Citing industry sources, McMurphy reports that was part of stipulations made by NBC Sports during negotiations with the Big East.
ESPN could only match NBC Sports Network's deal and not change the language of the contract, sources said.
The Big East has been rocked by defections over the last two seasons, leaving the league without its flagship football schools. Should there be another wave of realignment, the fear is that Cincinnati and UConn would be next on deck to leave. Both have made it no secret they would be interested in joining the ACC.
Sources told McMurphy that clause was put in to protect NBC Sports Network.
During a conference call with reporters Tuesday, the termination clause was not specifically addressed. Several other topics were:
Commissioner Mike Aresco says the plan is to have a new name for the league in place by April or May. "We’re not going to set a deadline but obviously we need to move expeditiously," he said.
Aresco would not confirm whether the pot of revenues to be distributed is $110 million, as has been reported, saying only it was a "significant number." The money has not been divided yet, and he vehemently denied reports that there had been infighting about how to distribute the money. "Nothing could be further from the truth. There has been no infighting at all regarding distribution of money. You did see some media reports and they were not accurate in terms of how the money would be divided. We have a deliberate systematic process we are going through with schools that remain in the conference having a dialogue with the new schools. We’re going to amicably resolve any issues with money."
The plan remains to get to 12 teams. Tulsa is reportedly the only school that was discussed during league meetings in Atlanta a few weeks ago. "We are looking at expansion," Aresco said. "I haven’t made any secret of it. We obviously wanted to wait until the conference tournaments were over to begin the process in earnest but we will be looking at it very carefully over the next few weeks and we may have some word for you. Our intention has always been to get to 12 teams. Our expectation is to have a championship football game in 2015."
The plan also remains to have the championship game held at campus sites. There is an outside possibility there could be one in 2014, but it seems unlikely.
Aresco also was asked whether the league would be able to maintain its tie to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. "We hope so," he said. "We like the bowl, we think the Yankees do an incredible job with the bowl. We’re engaged in discussions with them."