Big East developing plans for TV network
Big East football commissioner John Marinatto speaks with to reporters during the conference's media day, Tuesday in Newport, R.I.
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NEWPORT, R.I. -- Expansion was not a hot topic at Big East Conference media day Tuesday, and for good reason. Commissioner John Marinatto issued a gag order on all subjects dealing with expansion, contraction or the changing landscape of college football.
Marinatto made it clear that he wanted the talk to be about the current teams in the conference.
"I call it being responsible," Marinatto said, "and there is no reason to speculate or comment on things that are being speculated on or rumors because it doesn't do as any good. It just doesn't serve anybody well to put things out there that are not true or are just speculation."
That being said, Marinatto did a lot more than speculate about what the future holds for the Big East. He said the conference is strongly considering the possibility of strengthening its position in the world of college athletics by creating a Big East television network.
In fact, at a time when there is much speculation that the conference must add more football teams to stay relevant, he believes there are plenty of other ways for the league to grow.
"Growth can happen in a lot of ways," Marinatto said. "I see growth right now in terms of our potential as being in television. We've seen since the Big Ten created the Big Ten Network a new evolution of distribution and how these other entities have been able to monetize their assets. The Big Ten has shown that you don't necessarily have to go to an entity like ESPN in order to create an environment for your league where you create exposure and, obviously, financial benefits for your members.
"Now, everybody else who has negotiated [with networks] since then, it has caused them to negotiate a little bit differently. And when we look at ourselves -- and I am talking about our footprint as a conference -- we represent more than 25 percent of the population of the United States and seven of our schools are in the top 13 markets. So from an asset standpoint, we have much more potential than anybody because we represent more of the population than anyone else."
Marinatto stressed that while the idea of a Big East network is being discussed and steps are being taken to study how plausible and realistic it would be, the creation of a network would not happen at least for the next three years while the league still has contracts for basketball and football with ESPN, ABC and CBS (for some limited basketball games).
Still, a network certainly is in the works. The Big East hired former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who oversaw the formation of the NFL Network, as a consultant. Tagliabue's main focus has been helping the Big East use television to maximize its ability to gain exposure as well as money.
"[Tagliabue] has an incredible understanding of television, technology and innovation," Marinatto said. "He brings to us that kind of expertise, in terms of, how it is we can monetize what we are."
Beyond the creation of a network, Marinatto said the conference will continue to explore the possibility of adding more football members. But he said nobody within the conference wants to add teams just to get bigger, and any team considered must be the right fit.
"We've talked about it forever, and I think a ninth team provides a lot of opportunity, beginning with a balanced schedule," Marinatto said. "And when we rewrote our bylaws in 2004-05, we made provisions for that, but we've always said we would only bring in a ninth school if it brought value to our membership."
Marinatto again dismissed the Internet rumors that Central Florida and Memphis were going to receive invitations to join the conference, but he said that there have been some discussions about Villanova making the jump to Division I-A football and that could be one viable option for the conference to grow without upsetting its 16-team basketball alignment.
First Published August 4, 2010 12:00 am