John Marinatto is gunning for 12 teams. CBSSports.com reported Tuesday the Big East will add five schools in football: Houston, SMU and UCF as full members and Boise State and San Diego State as football-only members. Those additions would bring the league to 10 teams, with Navy and Air Force or Temple making 12. The conference should rename itself to capture perfectly its bland, corporate, cross-regional marriage of convenience. Alas, Conference USA is already taken.
The common narrative relates this to the BCS AQ bid. With Jim Delany questioning the wisdom of those existing, it’s probable those won’t exist after 2014. The driving force for these schools is TV money. The $3.7 million per school the Big East deal pays out is more than twice the $1.5 million San Diego State earns in the Mountain West. If the Big East gets a TV deal on par with the ACC, that figure could triple to around $13 million. For Syracuse that’s not so grand. For the schools joining, that’s a massive upgrade.
How big that TV deal will be is not certain though. Fox and Comcast/NBC should be in the market for college football, but will they drive up bidding to lock down the Big East? Live sports (football in particular) have increased in value in the DVR age. The conference will argue it now has an enormous footprint spanning four time-zones, but where is the demand? Even with Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, the Big East had to schedule games on Thursday and Friday to get on TV. There’s a reason the teams they are adding where in C-USA and the MWC.
The Big East has a collection of teams that are the distant second or third teams in their own market. Instead of Penn State it has Rutgers and UConn. Instead of Ohio State, Kentucky and Tennessee it has Cincinnati and Louisville. Instead of Miami, Florida and Florida State, it has USF and UCF. Instead of Texas, TCU or Texas A&M they have SMU and Houston. Instead of USC or UCLA they have San Diego State. The veritable “footprint” is exceedingly small. What is the value of having perhaps the sixth and seventh biggest programs in Texas?
Non-AQ teams may be induced to set sail based on Marinatto’s tales of gold and conquest, but those are the same tales that did not convince longstanding conference members, who leapt for terra firma at the first opportunity. Unless the Big East lands a mega TV deal that allows it to fend off invaders, the conference will remain bounded only by the better conferences’ disinterest. More teams would simply mean more potential casualties.
Previously: ESPN May Be The Force Behind Conference Realignment, That Doesn’t Necessarily Mean It is Forcing It
Previously: West Virginia is Confirmed to the Big 12 and Mountaineer Fans Should Get Psyched for 2,300-Mile Big 12 Road Trips
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