The Big East will not agree to a media rights deal with ESPN before the end of next week's 60-day exclusivity window, allowing the conference to negotiate with other networks, according to league sources.
The Big East now will be free to negotiate its media rights deal with other networks, specifically NBC Sports Network/Comcast, which has shown the most interest in the league, and Fox.
In April at the Big East's spring meetings in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., NBC Sports/Comcast and Fox provided in-depth "pitches" to the league's athletic directors. Sources said the league's AD's were most impressed by the presentations from NBC Sports.
The Big East may still end up re-signing with ESPN, but the league is banking on multiple networks bidding on its media rights deal to drive up its worth, league sources said.
"We've been having productive discussions with the Big East and hope to continue our longstanding relationship," ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz said.
At last week's basketball media days in New York, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said he was "optimistic about getting something done" with ESPN.
"We're talking," Aresco said. "Talks have been good and constructive. They value our product immensely. We value them. We're continuing to talk. We'll see.
"If something else develops, we'll see. We have a lot of interest from other networks and you would expect that because our product is so good and so plentiful."
In the past year, the Big East had West Virginia, TCU, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame announce they were leaving the league. The Big East has responded by adding Temple this year and will add Boise State, San Diego State, Memphis, UCF, Houston and SMU next year and Navy in 2015.
Aresco has said the league also will add another football-only member by at least 2015.
The Big East's current basketball media rights deal with ESPN and CBS expires after the 2012-13 academic year, while the football deal with ESPN expires after the 2013-14 academic year.
The Big East's current six-year media rights deal is worth $3.12 million annually for each of the eight full members and $1.5 million annually for each of the eight non-football members. The eight football members split $13 million; the 16 basketball members split $24 million.
In April of 2011, former Big East commissioner John Marinatto recommended the Big East accept a nine-year deal from ESPN worth $1.17 billion, an average of $130 million annually. That deal would have earned full members $13.8 million a year and non-football members $2.43 million a year. However, the league's presidents voted to turn it down.
At that time, that offer was comparable to the ACC's media rights deal (then worth $155 million annually), but the Big East's presidents gambled they could get a better deal by waiting until now.
It's uncertain what the Big East's new media rights deal will bring. Media estimates have varied drastically, putting the Big East's media rights worth between $60 million to $130 million annually.
Based on a 14-team football league (with four football-only members) and a 17-team basketball league, a $60 million deal per year would be worth $4.06 million each for the 10 full members; $3 million each for the four football-only members (Boise State, San Diego State, Navy and TBA); and $1.06 million each for the seven non-football members.
A $130 million deal per year would be worth $8.8 million each for the 10 full members; $6.5 million each for the four football-only members and $2.3 million each for the seven non-football members.
By comparison, last month the Big 12 signed a 13-year media rights deal with ESPN and Fox worth $20 million annually per school.
The other current BCS AQ conferences -- the Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC and ACC -- each have media rights deals worth between $18 million and $21 million annually per school.
Brett McMurphy covers college football for ESPN