NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Big East has found its man.
The conference, now in rebuilding mode, has hired CBS executive vice president Mike Aresco to be its commissioner.
Aresco has been a vice president in charge of programming for CBS since 1996. He’s handled the network’s contract negotiations with the NCAA for the rights to the men’s basketball tournament. He also negotiated CBS’s 15-year deal with the Southeastern Conference.
“The search to identify the new Commissioner of The BIG EAST Conference was truly an international search,” Cincinnati president and search committee chairman Greg Williams said in a statement. “We had many outstanding candidates, but we are fortunate to have Mike Aresco as our new Commissioner. His breadth of experience and depth of knowledge in intercollegiate athletics will continue to move the BIG EAST forward on a successful path. The BIG EAST has enjoyed a great history. Mike Aresco will help assure the conference of a vibrant future.”
Aresco, a Connecticut native who resides in Southport, Conn., has never worked for a conference or university, but his experience lies in the field where the Big East needs the most help.
The conference is in transition and will begin crucial negotiations on a new television contract in September. The defections of longtime members West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse cost former Commissioner John Marinatto his job earlier this year.
Marinatto helped the conference add eight schools, six that are slated to join next year, but the long-term viability of the far-flung league is in doubt.
The next commissioner will need to create stability to encourage current and future members to stick with the conference if and when leagues such as the Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference look to expand again.
The best way for Aresco to do that is to help the Big East land a billion television contract that is at least in the ballpark of the ACC’s recently re-worked deal with ESPN, which will pay its members about $17 million per year starting next season and through the 2026-27 sports season.
The Big East lost West Virginia, along with member-to-be TCU, to the Big 12 this year. Syracuse and Pittsburgh depart for the Atlantic Coast Conference next year.
Temple rejoined the Big East on short notice this year to replace West Virginia.
Six new members are scheduled to join the Big East next year, including Boise State and San Diego State for football only, to create a coast-to-coast, 12-team football conference.
Also set to join the Big East in 2013 are Memphis, Central Florida, Houston and SMU.
Navy has committed to join the conference in 2015, and the Big East will eventually be in the market for another school to give it 14 football members when the Midshipmen join.
But up first is securing a TV contract. On Sept. 1, ESPN and the Big East begin a 60-day exclusive negotiating period. If they don’t work out a deal, the Big East’s media rights go on the open market.
A year ago, the league turned down an offer to extend its contract with ESPN, reportedly for about $1.4 billion over nine years.
Since then, the Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC all locked up long-term multibillion deals. The Pac-12’s landmark deal was worth $3 billion over 12 years.
The Big East pitched the promise of a big pay day from its next TV contract to its future members, and is hoping that being the last conference on the market with some new buyers, such as NBC, will work in its favor.
On Monday, the Big East hired the sports media firm Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures, led by Chris Bevilacqua, who helped negotiate the Pac-12’s deal.
The league followed that up by hiring Aresco, who has made a long successful career of negotiating some of the biggest television deals in college sports.
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