Good luck to the next Big East commish

May, 9, 2012
Interim Big East commissioner Joe Bailey said it will likely take three months to find a new commissioner and that he's not a candidate for the position.

Whoever ends up landing this gig will inherit quite a mess.

Bailey painted a utopian picture of the league in a conference call with the media Wednesday, insisting Boise State and San Diego State are still committed to joining the conference in football in 2013. Though he won't be involved during negotiations for a new television contract in the fall, he said the Big East will "probably have a number of interested parties, just simply because of what the Big East represents."

Temple will join the Big East in football in 2012 and all sports in 2013; Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF will join in all sports in 2013. Navy will join as a football-only member in 2015. Pittsburgh and Syracuse will leave after this season and TCU joined the Big 12 having never played a game as a Big East member.

That's where we stand today. As for the future of the beleaguered league, here are some of the elements still in play:

• There will be competition for the Big East TV rights when negotiations begin in the fall as there is more demand in the market with NBC in play with Fox, ESPN and CBS. However, no industry sources believe the Big East will command more dollars then the other five major conferences (SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC).

• There remains a desire among some member schools to leave. Multiple sources with direct knowledge of their situations told that Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich told the Big East board of directors that the Cardinals want to be in the Big 12 or the ACC, opting for transparency by making members aware of his school's true intentions.

No invitation has arrived as of yet and the only likely one would be from the Big 12 if new commissioner Bob Bowlsby sees the need to recommend to his board that an expansion to 12 teams is in the league's interest. Last year, Louisville made a strong push to get into the Big 12 over West Virginia but was rebuffed in the 11th hour.

Connecticut, meanwhile, states publicly that it wants to stay in the Big East, though a number of UConn sources have said privately that they want to be in the ACC with Notre Dame.

The Irish have so far publicly remained committed to independence in football and the Big East in all other sports. But an Irish source said that they are evaluating the new landscape in the Big East. Still, it would take a major decision by the Irish to give up independent status in football.

• One veteran of the Big East said that the Big East initially approved the ESPN $1.4 billion deal by a 12-4 vote. But while the Big East was going over the final details, ESPN struck a deal with the Pac-12 (a combined $250 million with ESPN and Fox), so the Big East had second thoughts and conducted a new vote. That vote was 16-0 against the deal. ESPN and the Big East have had limited discussions since the Pac-12 deal was announced.

The source rejected the notion that there is a rift between the schools with FBS football programs and those without, and that the non-FBS schools are not planning to depart the league. Of course, the Big East's addition of Temple and Memphis are moves that helped reinforce the league's basketball standing as well as placate any idle thoughts, too.

There is no movement to orchestrate a split, according to sources. The most powerful basketball-centric player in the Big East, according to sources, is Georgetown and the Hoyas aren't interested in splitting up the league. A newly formed Big East made up of non-FBS schools would also have to add like schools from the Atlantic 10, such as Xavier, Dayton, Saint Louis, Butler or Duquesne.

A longtime A-10 source said that Xavier isn't interested in leaving the league now that it has upgraded with the addition of Butler.

When the new commissioner is hired, he or she will have to get in a room and negotiate a deal knowing that Louisville wants out and so does UConn. But neither has an invitation now, so they are stuck together.

The Big East holds its annual spring meeting in Florida next weekend; Pitt and Syracuse are not invited, but Temple, Navy, Boise State, San Diego State, Central Florida, SMU and Houston are expected to attend with the current remaining 13 members.

This mismatched arranged marriage can still work. Its football teams will have to fight for a spot in the final four standings like every other league and will have a legitimate shot if it schedules up and goes undefeated. Basketball can survive and flourish with Louisville, UConn, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Villanova, St. John's, Marquette, Cincinnati, Memphis and Temple anchoring the league.

But take Louisville and Connecticut out, and, according to the Big East source, "the whole thing implodes. Then the basketball schools will be reactive, rather than proactive."

So, that's the landscape a new commissioner will have to deal with when he or she is named.

Good luck.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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