ESPN covers college football. Because of television revenue, ESPN is also the major power broker in college football. When something happens directly related to an ESPN TV contract, such as BCS teams swapping conferences, it’s hard to believe the WWL would be a dispassionate observer. Regarding the ACC adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh, Boston College AD Gene Defilippo confirmed ESPN’s role, claiming the network “told us what to do” regarding expansion.
From the Boston Globe:
The ACC just signed a new deal with ESPN that will increase the revenue for each school to approximately $13 million. With the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, said DeFilippo, another significant increase will come.
“We always keep our television partners close to us,’’ he said. “You don’t get extra money for basketball. It’s 85 percent football money. TV – ESPN – is the one who told us what to do. This was football; it had nothing to do with basketball.’’
Now, “told us what to do” could have multiple interpretations. Did ESPN advise the ACC to focus on football if they wanted to improve the TV contract, or did ESPN suggest the conference target specific markets and schools? “Told us what to do” seems fairly demonstrative, which would lean one toward the latter interpretation, which would be very interesting given the network’s recent dealings with the Big East.
The Big East rejected what ESPN felt was a sensible offer for a new television contract. Big East commissioner John Marinatto planned to open up the bidding to Fox and Comcast/NBC. College football is college football. Live sport has become more valuable as the only must-see-live television programming. The Big East thought it was poised to score a massive TV deal just months ago.
ESPN was screwed under that scenario. It had to either (a) get into a bidding war and pay Big Ten or SEC prices for football it had no interest in showing on Saturday to maintain its stranglehold or (b) allow either Fox or Comcast/NBC a significant foothold in the marketplace. Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving for the ACC (followed by TCU opting to leave for the Big 12) negated that scenario completely. ACC schools will make a bit more money, but the biggest winner from the Big East’s plan falling through was ESPN.
So, ESPN “told (the ACC) what to do” and what subsequently happened to the Big East was profoundly convenient for ESPN. Hmm…
Also interesting from the Globe piece, Connecticut, rather than Pittsburgh, was the ACC’s initial target but Boston College blocked the move over “turf” and a desire to be “the New England team.”
While Syracuse presented no problem, UConn did – to BC, which was still fuming over what it perceived to be vitriolic comments made when BC was finally invited to join the ACC and started competing in 2005. UConn and Pittsburgh filed a lawsuit against BC, and Calhoun made comments about never playing BC again.
DeFilippo does not deny that BC opposed the inclusion of UConn.
“We didn’t want them in,’’ he said. “It was a matter of turf. We wanted to be the New England team.’’
“The New England Team” is currently 0-5 against FBS programs, has never reached a BCS bowl and has no national titles in men’s or women’s basketball. It’s no wonder they’d feel insecure.
[Photo via Getty]