After what seemed like an eternity of the powers that be in the Big East clumsily fumbling around to find their own zippers in the dark, only to step on a land mine and blow it off before they get a chance to use it, it's hard not to feel good about Mike Aresco being named the new commish. He's got the television/college sports background, he looks about ten times smarter than John Marinatto; and, more important than any of that, it took less than 24 hours for people at ESPN to start downplaying the hire as too little too late.
First Freddie Coleman, national-nightly radio show host for ESPN, got in on the act...
Earlier in the day Andy Katz felt the need to chime in.....
And of course our favorite LCP of 2011 opened his bottle of hater-ade way ahead of the curve....
And the antics of the ESPN College football commentators like Kirk Herbstreit, Craig James, and many others(<--this dude gets it, worth the click) has been well documented. I honestly don't know how anyone could label what has gone on at ESPN over the last two years as anything but a smear campaign.
This bizarre behavior, in the face of an upcoming negotiation period, raises a pretty important question for the new commissioner to ask himself. There's no doubt that Mike Aresco was hired for the explicit purpose of guiding the Big East through the next round of TV contract negotiations. Why else hire a man with his credentials? The most important decision the new commissioner will have to make, when striking the deal that will define Big East Football for at least the next decade, is not how much money can he get for the rights to the Big East's games.
The question has become, "what's more important to this league right now; money, or positive exposure?" Is it more important for the Big East to get every penny it can for the rights to it's sports; or, is it more important to have a network in your corner that won't pull the stool out from underneath you as you go to plop down in that corner?
I firmly believe it's a whole lot of both, but more of the latter. The reputation of the Big East as a football conference has been torn to shreds over the last couple of years. With the recent defections, mainly Syracuse, it's only a matter of time before the detractors with agendas start attacking the basketball too (see Katz's article here).
No, at this point money does matter; but, not nearly as much as having a TV partner with a serious interest in seeing the Big East thrive. There are too many other leagues ahead of the Big East in the ESPN pecking order. The people in Bristol would probably still like to have the rights to the Big East for basketball, and football filler during the week; but, they could care less about promoting this league in prime time on Saturday nights during the Fall.
ESPN has let it be known that they don't really think Big East football matters, and that's fine. Let them think that. They'll make an offer, and it may or may not be more than what a network like NBC will pay. Bye the way, NBC is desperate to have broadcast rights to more than just Notre Dame, illustrated by their attempts to secure a deal with the PAC12 during their last negotiation cycle. Whatever ESPN offers, whatever number they put on the table, there is more to consider here than simply who can get how much.
The league is without a major Bowl destination after 2014. They are currently in bed with a network that has no real interest in helping them attain a status similar to a league like the ACC, who currently has a spot locked into a major bowl; and, is being championed as one of the "Big5" who's champion deserves to be in the playoff conversation. Oh-by-the-way, the Big East has been better than the ACC for the last five years on the field: 25-23 overall, 7-5 in Bowls, and 2-1 in BSC Bowls. Suck it, Katz.
While I feel all warm and fuzzy inside about the hiring of Mike Aresco, I can't bring myself to giddiness just yet. There are too many important decisions to be made in the coming months. I have no reason to believe that he isn't the right guy to make those decisions, I'd just prefer to sit back and see how it all unfolds before I pass judgment. It looks more and more like the teams that are in the Big East right now, will be in the Big East for the foreseeable future. If that's the case, I'd personally rather see the Big East with a TV partner that isn't sneaking up behind us with blunt objects and dueling banjos as their theme music.