Big East Fully Embraces Importance of TV In Hiring Mike Aresco as Its New Commissioner

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 15th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC  columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

For years the Big East has sat back and watched as conference realignment marginalized its position in the modern college athletics landscape. This realignment – driven almost entirely by football-oriented television rights contracts – prompted Syracuse and Pittsburgh, two league forerunners with longstanding rivalries and successful track records, to bolt for the ACC, a league that in May announced a restructured broadcasting rights deal with ESPN worth $3.6 billion over 15 years. Longtime affiliate West Virginia and near-member TCU also deserted the struggling league in favor of the Big 12 – another league cashing in on the recent power conference TV contract frenzy by agreeing to a $1.2 billion deal with Fox. The Big East in response embarked on a nationwide courtship to increase its membership before entering a crucial 60-day negotiating window with ESPN this September to secure a lucrative TV rights deal of its own. It has since added Houston, SMU, Memphis and Central Florida, with Navy, Boise State and San Diego State also joining as football-only members. Once a bastion of exemplary conference leadership and stability, the Big East has morphed itself into an amalgam of disparate parts with no geographical unity or identity. More importantly, its bargaining hand heading into the crucial negotiating period to determine its future status in the major conference pecking order lacks substance. And so the expectation was that the Big East, now a shell of it former self and withering at the expense of TV rights-motivated inter-league poaching, would muddle its discussions with ESPN and further diminish its standing within the power conference structure.

As the Big East prepares for its crucial TV rights negotiating period with ESPN, Aresco is the perfect leader. It remains to be seen how he will fare in his new position beyond this fall.

The floundering league took major strides Tuesday toward securing a far sweeter deal than it otherwise may have anticipated when it announced the hiring of Mike Aresco as its new conference commissioner. Aresco’s latest position comes on the heels of his stint as vice president of programming at CBS Sports, before which he worked in the programming department at ESPN. The Big East scrambled to fill the vacant position after former commissioner John Marinatto resigned in May amid concerns that he was ill-prepared to lead the league into its critical television negotiations period. The clear hope is that Aresco will work in conjunction with Evolution Media Capital (EMC) and Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures (a group that recently negotiated the Pac-12’s groundbreaking $3 billion TV rights deal) in striking a similarly advantageous package. If the Big East and ESPN cannot reach a deal within the exclusive 60-day negotiating window, then the league’s TV rights will be open to the highest bidder.

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Big East Weekly Five: 05.09.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on May 9th, 2012

  1. John Marinatto’s tumultuous three-year run as Big East commissioner ended on Monday when he tendered his resignation. Marinatto’s departure, which reportedly came at the request of member school presidents, puts the already unsteady Big East on even more tenuous ground as the newly realigned and super-sized conference may find itself once again in the cross hairs of other media exposure hungry leagues.  Joseph Bailey, III, the former CEO of the Miami Dolphins, was named interim commissioner. Expect the Big East to move quickly to name a permanent leader, and that person will have to be ready to work under pressure given the fact he or she will be faced with stabilizing the membership and bringing home an extremely important television deal this fall. Whether justified or not, Marinatto will get most of the blame publicly for the current state of the conference. The argument can certainly be made that he lacked the leadership ability and negotiation skills necessary to see the Big East through the landscape changes that faced him, but some of his presidents and so-called allies did not set Marinatto up for success when they led the refusal of a reported $1.2 billion dollar television contract extension with ESPN. That helped to put the conference in a vulnerable position when it subsequently booked to other leagues in search of bigger dollars.
  2. Notre Dame and Tim Abromaitis learned last week that the star forward will not be granted a rare sixth year of eligibility. Abromaitis, who will not appeal, appeared in just two games for the Fighting Irish last season after sitting out a four-game NCAA suspension and before suffering a season-ending ACL tear. The 6’8” Abromaitis, who averaged 13.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in South Bend, continues to rehabilitate his surgically repaired knee and intends to pursue a professional basketball career. Should hoops not work out, Abromaitis has solid credentials to fall back on as he holds both undergraduate and MBA degrees from Notre Dame.  Mike Brey and the Irish basketball program await a decision on another sixth-year eligibility applicant, Scott Martin, who sat out two years ago due to transfer (from Purdue) in addition to missing last season with a torn ACL of his own.
  3. Connecticut picked up some much-needed good news on the recruiting front as it gained a commitment from Phillip Nolan, a 6’10” power forward from Milwaukee. Nolan, who is ranked 118th nationally by, may be an under-the-radar catch as he played in just six games (transfer), averaging 12.3 points per outing, for Milwaukee’s Riverside University High School this past season. The shortened campaign came about because before enrolling at Riverside, Nolan spent his first two seasons at Vincent High School followed by stops at a pair of prep schools. Nolan will have a great opportunity at immediate playing time on the heels of the much publicized frontcourt departures of transfers Alex Oriakhi, Roscoe Smith and Michael Bradley along with early NBA draft entrant Andre Drummond.
  4. Providence will enjoy ESPN’s sixth-rated recruiting class next season but Ed Cooley has refused to rest on his laurels as he continues to search for a big man to join the group. After losing out to conference rival St. John’s in the race for highly-regarded forwards JaKarr Sampson and Orlando Sanchez, this year’s recruiting crop still has a vacancy. Cooley scored a front line talent for the 2013-14 season when he received a commitment from seven-foot transfer Carson Desrosiers. Desrosiers played his first two years at Wake Forest and averaged 4.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 31 games as a part-time starter for the Demon Deacons. Desrosiers considered the Friars coming out of Massachusetts’ Central Catholic High School before opting to head south to the ACC.  He will have two years of eligibility after sitting out next season under NCAA transfer rules.
  5. In other transfer news, we noted here last week that Arizona State transfer and last year’s leading scorer Trent Lockett was fast becoming a person of high interest for Marquette. Well it seems the feeling was mutual as Lockett, a 6’4” guard who averaged 13.0 points and 5.8 rebounds for the Sun Devils as a junior, will in fact transfer to play for Buzz Williams in Milwaukee. Lockett is eligible to play for Marquette next season and will be a welcome addition to a lineup that will be looking to replace the production of the departed Darius Johnson-Odom and Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder. As with Providence, Wake Forest supplied another Big East school with a transfer as guard Tony Chennault, a native Philadelphian, will be heading home to attend Villanova after two years in Winston-Salem. Chennault played 31.2 minutes per game last season, averaging 9.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists, but elected to transfer to be closer to his mother who has been dealing with health issues. To that end, Chennault is seeking a waiver that will allow him to play for the Wildcats in the 2012-13 season.
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Big East Commissioner John Marinatto Resigns After Trying Time of Realignment

Posted by EJacoby on May 7th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

Since the Big East Conference was founded in 1979, there have been only three commissioners of a league that has featured stability and prosperity throughout its existence. But the landscape of college sports continues to change and the Big East is no exception. On Monday, Commissioner John Marinatto announced his resignation from the position, leaving a vacancy atop the country’s most dominant basketball conference. The status of the Big East as the nation’s premier basketball league may soon be in question now that Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia are on their way out, which was likely a strong factor that came into play with this story. Marinatto was unable to follow in the footsteps of Dave Gavitt and Mike Tranghese, the first two Big East commissioners who each served for at least 11 years. Marinatto only lasted from July 2009 to May 2012 and simply became a victim of the greater effects of conference realignment.

John Marinatto is Out as Big East Commissioner (AP Photo/J. Giblin)

Marinatto was unable to please the Big East Board of Directors despite successfully expanding the league to 18 schools for the 2013-14 season, which includes new teams Memphis, Temple, SMU, Central Florida, Boise State, San Diego State, and Houston. However, of the 18-team league, only 13 will be playing Big East football in 2013, the sport that brings in the most money and affects the majority of decisions regarding realignment. In addition, the upcoming 18-team league does not include recently departed longtime members Syracuse and Pittsburgh, two of the top basketball programs in the entire country. The conference also lost longtime powerhouse West Virginia and new addition TCU to the Big 12, two huge football losses. “Our recent expansion efforts have stabilized the Conference for the long term,” said Marinatto in his statement, but reports suggest that he was asked to resign from the position, so not everyone was pleased by these efforts. “I felt this was the right time to step aside and to let someone else lead us through the next chapter of our evolution,” Marinatto added.

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Big East Morning Five: 03.05.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 5th, 2012

  1. So the Big East went and rolled out its all-conference and all-rookie teams yesterday as we were scrambling to get our picks together. Suffice it to say we had some thoughts but the pesky real announcement beat us to it. Officially the All-Big East first, second, third, and honorable mention teams were announced as well as the Big East All-Rookie team. You can see the full list of selections hereMarquette’s Jae Crowder was the only unanimous selection on any of the teams. Moe Harkless of St. John’s took home both All-Rookie and All Big East Honorable Mention honors.  This could be a foreshadowing to tomorrow when Big East Player, Coach, Rookie, and Scholar-Athlete of the Year will be announced between the afternoon and evening sessions of the Big East Championship.
  2. If the Big East represented a portfolio of stocks, despite a fair share of volatility over the years, its investors would certainly have enjoyed a tidy profit. In a fitting confluence of the sports and business worlds, Commissioner John Marinatto along with other conference officials will have the honor of ringing the New York Stock Exchange’s Closing Bell today as a symbolic commencement to tomorrow’s Big East Championship. This is the 30th straight year the Big East Championship has taken place at Madison Square Garden. No conference tournament and setting have had a longer relationship than that of the Big East and the Garden. A live webcast of the Closing Bell ceremony can be seen via the Big East’s website at 3:59 PM Eastern Standard Time.
  3. Connecticut got a lift on Saturday when head coach Jim Calhoun returned to the sideline. Calhoun had been out since February 3 due to spinal stenosis and underwent surgery last Monday. The team appeared to feed off of his presence as they fought of a Pittsburgh rally to pull out a much-needed win. “There are no words to describe what he means to this team,” guard Shabazz Napier told the Hartford Courant. “You think you’re tired, and then you look at him and he shakes his fist and you say, ‘I’m not done.” Calhoun, who was reported to be extremely tired following the game, did not attend Connecticut’s practice on Sunday but is expected to be back today. It is expected Calhoun will accompany his team to New York and coach in the Big East tournament however, should the Huskies beat DePaul on Tuesday Calhoun’s status figures to be a day-to-day decision given the tournament’s rigorous schedule.
  4. Speaking of Connecticut, one of its assistants could be returning to the rank of head coach once the season is over.  News broke yesterday that the University of Rhode Island fired head coach Jim Baron after eleven seasons in Kingston and the Huskies’ Glen Miller is reported to be on the short list of candidates to replace him. Miller, who returned to Connecticut last season in his second stint as an assistant under Jim Calhoun, is well known in Rhode Island circles as he coached Brown University for seven seasons (1999 – 2006), posting a 93-99 record.  Miller, who has seventeen years of head coaching experience, left Brown for Pennsylvania and took the Quakers to the 2007 NCAA tournament. Wagner’s Danny Hurley is believed to be the lead candidate for the Rhode Island job but should Miller get it, he will be the second Calhoun assistant in as many years to head to the Ocean State. Last offseason Andre LaFleur left Connecticut for an associate head coach’s position at Providence.
  5. Every sports fan has dreams of a ‘man cave’ right? started a contest to find those who have executed on their interior design goals and now have a man cave to write home about. While the contest did not specify any themes, it turned out to be all about orange. At least five people submitted entries that revealed man caves dedicated to Syracuse athletics, and the men of the house did not even have to establish permanent residence in them at the behest of their better halves. In fact for the most part, save for a veto on naming a child ‘Sara Cuse’, the spaces are wife and family approved.
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Floriani: Behind The Scenes At Big East & A-10 Media Days

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 25th, 2010

Ray Floriani of NBE Basketball Report and College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC, but he also covers many events and games in the NYC metropolitan area. He had the opportunity to attend the Big East and Atlantic 10 Media Days last week and snap a few photos.

Big East Media DayWednesday, October 20 – New York City

The media days are upon us, a sign as indicative of the first leaves falling that the opening tip is not far away. Last Wednesday, the Big East had their day at Madison Square Garden.

The media days often provide a host of scripted quotes. “We have a big challenge… our seniors must step up… there are no nights off in the (fill in your league) conference…” Despite their regularity, they serve a purpose of promoting the conference and they afford the chance to renew acquaintances. For us media types,  it is great to see friends you haven’t seen since March and to discuss the game with the coaches in a calm environment. All coaches are 0-0 and optimistic (for the most part) about the upcoming campaign. With games a few weeks away, you can actually get a chance to engage in some small talk if there isn’t a big media crush at that coach’s table.

The day started with everyone in a theater-type seating area. Commissioner John Marinatto gave a short “state of the conference.” Marinatto opened with a call to remember Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand, injured a few days ago, in everyone’s thoughts. Marinatto said renovations at MSG will make the “Big East postseason tournament the premier conference tourney in the country.” The commissioner also noted that since expanding to 16 teams, NCAA bids have increased by 20% for the Big East. Austin Freeman of Georgetown, the preseason Player of the Year choice, addressed the group on behalf of the players.

Marquette head coach Buzz Williams fields questions at the Big East’s Media Day at Madison Square Garden

The working media session was broken into two parts. Each school had its own table where the head coach and a few players were present to field questions. The first half saw eight coaches interviewed by electronic media as TV affiliates. The other half stayed at their tables with a few players from their team as print media ascended. After about 90 minutes, the procedure was reversed. Following the work session a luncheon was provided before everyone adjourned.

A few short notes from someone in attendance:

  • Buzz Williams’ methods of attention to detail and organization always intrigued me, as the Marquette leader is an advocate of maximizing each possession, even if it means limiting them. We discussed the concept of possessions and points per possession. As I discussed the four factors often seen on this site, which include free throw rate, offensive rebounding percentage, turnover percentage and effective field goal percentage, Williams dutifully made extremely meticulous notes in his book. Turnover rate is something of paramount importance to the Marquette mentor. “We have been outstanding in taking care of the ball,” Williams said. “It is something we emphasize.” Looking at the turnover rate (percentage of possessions ending in dreaded TOs) the last two seasons, Marquette’s TO rate has been 15.3% and 14.8%. I noted that 20% is the threshold that teams want to avoid; hitting it, or even worse, exceeding it, is unacceptable.  “If one-fifth of your possessions end in a turnover, your offense is not good,” Williams added. Amen.

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Big East: We Won’t Sit Idly By and Wait For the Big Ten Pillagers

Posted by rtmsf on May 28th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 conferences and an occasional contributor.

There was plenty of news that came out of this week’s Big East spring meetings: elimination of the double-bye in the Big East basketball tournament and the approved use of high-definition monitors for football replays (consider me amazed that this wasn’t the norm already), but there was also the underlying issue of the looming Big Ten expansion and how that will affect the Big East.

The most interesting line of the week came from rookie Big East commissioner John Marinatto, who said he is playing the Bud Fox to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s Gordon Gekko (two characters from the 1987 movie Wall Street). “I feel like I’m Bud Fox and he’s Gordon Gekko,” Marinatto said. “He’s always honest and helpful with me. He’s brilliant and creative — just like Gordon Gekko — he knew all the corners to cut. He understands the landscape.” While the quote comes across as mostly complimentary towards Delany, it also underlines the fact that this is a high-stakes business situation, and begs the question as to whether greed is indeed good for the NCAA and its conferences.

Greed is Good?

But, despite Marinatto’s respect for his sparring partner here, he also made it clear that with all that is at stake for the Big East, they are not just sitting idly by and waiting to see what the Big Ten is going to do.  When the Big East lost Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC in 2004 and 2005, the Big East was able to respond by adding all-sport schools Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida and basketball-only schools DePaul and Marquette to create a new and improved version of the conference, one that morphed into arguably the best basketball conference in the country. But with the Big Ten rumored to be interested in current Big East schools like Connecticut, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse (amongst others), once again they are on the defensive. “I look at this situation as another threat certainly,” Marinatto said. “It would be irresponsible not to be concerned about it. We’re trying to position ourselves as best we can. In my mind, you always play out what it is you might do, but we certainly can’t do that in a public forum.”

Fortunately, we, and others, can do that in a public forum. The New York Post has reported that representatives from the Big East have already had discussions with Atlantic 10 schools like Dayton, Duquesne, St. Joseph’s and Xavier about possibly joining up in the event of the Big East losing teams to the Big Ten. There has been speculation elsewhere about schools like Buffalo, Central Florida and East Carolina as all-sport replacements in case of the potential loss of, for instance, Pitt and Syracuse. And there is even continued talk about the Big East laying down an ultimatum to Notre Dame: join us in football or leave us in the rest of your sports. The thinking here is that even if Notre Dame decides to leave and is left without a home for its non-football sports, it would be more apt to join up with the Big Ten, perhaps saving schools like Syracuse and Pitt from its elongated reach.

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