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USF brass: We like Mike

Posted Aug 14, 2012 by Joey Johnston

Updated Aug 14, 2012 at 05:45 PM

The official announcement of new Big East Conference commissioner Mike Aresco, the CBS Sports vice president, was praised Tuesday by University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft and athletic director Doug Woolard.

In a statement, Genshaft, chair of the Big East’s CEO executive committee, said Aresco “knows the Big East and has a great vision for our future. He has all the characteristics we need in a commissioner.’‘

Including the most important one.

Experience in negotiating high-level television contracts. On Sept. 1, the Big East enters an exclusive 60-day negotiating window with ESPN. If nothing suitable presents itself there, the Big East can shop its product around. According to multiple reports, NBC and its new sports network are interested. There’s even speculation that Big East games could be used a lead-in or follow-up programming to NBC’s Notre Dame football games. Perhaps Notre Dame could be incorporated as a more frequent opponent for Big East teams.

Regardless of what happens, the Big East needs to deliver more profit in a very fertile atmosphere for college sports and TV networks. Currently, Big East football members realize about $6-million annually from TV revenue. Some have speculated that a new deal could double that figure, running counter to the doomsayers that claim the Big East doesn’t have much leverage.

“Television has changed the landscape for college athletics and it’s probably never been more important than the last 48 months,’’ said Woolard, speaking about new TV deals for the Pac-12 and ACC, the Big Ten’s television network and a record-breaking contract for SEC athletics. “I think Mike getting this position is a visionary move. He will do great because he has so much experience in all the important areas. He has contacts throughout the world of college athletics and he will fit in perfectly. I do think it’s a win-win move.

“It would probably be a bad pun to say I’m ‘bullish’ on the Big East, but that’s how I feel. I think moving forward we’re going to see some real progress and it will be a great thing for everyone in our league.’‘

The ACC recently signed a 15-year, $3.6-billion contract extension with ESPN. The Big 12 has signed a $1.2-billion contract with Fox, while ESPN and Fox have partnered on a Pac-12 deal woth $3-billion over 15 years.

“I think a lot of leagues are tied up for a long time and the Big East is the only one at the table right now,’’ Woolard said. “We have an opportunity.’‘

Aresco’s appointment comes during a tumultuous time in the Big East. Last September, Big East charter members Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced a jump to the ACC (which will take place on July 1, 2013). West Virginia fled for the Big 12 (the Mountaineers will play there this fall). TCU, which had committed to the Big East this fall, reneged and instead joined the Big 12 (which makes sense geographically, not that it matters in these confusing times).

Meanwhile, Temple was added to fill TCU’s spot and the Owls will play Big East football this fall. In 2013, the Big East’s composition changes dramatically with the addition of Boise State and San Diego State for football only, plus the addition of Central Florida, Houston, Memphis and SMU for all sports. Navy is scheduled to come aboard as a football-only member in 2015.

Beginning in 2013, Big East football will split into divisions (the alignment has not been determined) and hold a championship game (at a campus site).

The TV negotiations will have some urgency this fall because college football itself takes on a new look in 2014 with the abolishment of the Bowl Championship Series and the addition of a four-team playoff system. The automatic qualification system, which guaranteed a major bowl for the Big East champion, will be no more. The Big East needs to assure its long-term viability and have a spot at the big-boy table.

Woolard said he believes that will happen.

“I think Mike Aresco is a guy who knows how to build relationships,’’ Woolard said. “We have a great future.’‘

Aresco, among other things, was instrumental in the development of the CBS Sports Network. He negotiated CBS contracts with the SEC and the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Aresco also worked at ESPN, where he worked in programming and also served as assistant general counsel.

Aresco will be formally introduced as Big East commissioner during a Wednesday news conference in New York.

He replaces John Marinatto, who was forced to resign last spring. Joe Bailey, a former NFL administrator, has served as interim commissioner during the transition period.

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