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University Beat

Big East Agrees to Greatly Reduced ESPN TV Deal


USF, along with its fellow Big East Conference schools, will remain on ESPN after a deal was announced over the weekend. And while the unease over not having a TV rights arrangement is gone, so is a relatively substantial amount of money.

ESPN.com reports the network matched a media rights deal offer shortly after the NBC Sports Network made a reported $20 million dollar a year, six year offer. As the current primary rights holder, ESPN had a week to match that proposal.

The deal is for seven years and worth $130 million through the 2019-20 school year, league sources said. The Big East's new deal is worth less per school than its current ESPN deal and six times less than what ESPN presented two years ago. The conference did not reveal terms of the agreement in its announcement.

Sources also tell ESPN that the league's presidents are expected to approve the deal in a vote that could be held as early as today.

"ESPN has matched the third-party offer that the Big East Conference received, and, subject to Big East board approval, ESPN and the Big East will continue, for years to come, their long-term relationship, which began in 1980," commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. ESPN also issued a statement, saying, "We look forward to continuing our relationship."

ESPN had made a nine-year, $1.17 billion offer that was rejected two years ago. That deal would have meant nearly $14 million a year to conference schools that fielded Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams like USF. Since then, 16 schools either left the conference or announced plans to leave.

Combined with CBS' plans to extend its men's basketball rights with the conference at about $2 million dollars a year, the Big East's total media rights value will be about $22 million annually starting in 2014. Based on a 12-team league (7 'basketball only' schools plan to leave the conference sometime in the next two years), that would make the deal worth about $1.8 million per school annually.

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