Did ESPN Bone The Big East Because They Wouldn't Sign A TV Deal?

Boston College AD Gene DeFilippo, who was part of the ACC's expansion committee that lured Pitt and Syracuse away from the Big East, says something that shouldn't be a big shocker: realignment is about money. But to see it put so blatantly, and to see the four-letter network invoked so unapologetically, well, this is what college sports looks like these days:

The ACC just signed a new deal with ESPN that will increase the revenue for each school to approximately $13 million. With the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, said DeFilippo, another significant increase will come.

"We always keep our television partners close to us,'' he said. "You don't get extra money for basketball. It's 85 percent football money. TV - ESPN - is the one who told us what to do."

That's fine. The ACC isn't forced to do anything they don't want to do, and if they want to turn down additional revenues, it's their funeral. Revenues should and do take precedent any day over unprofitable things like making geographic sense or preserving storied rivalries. But the conspiracy theorists now have all they need, writes Pete Thamel in the Times:

DeFilippo's comments give credence to the popular theory that ESPN encouraged Pittsburgh and Syracuse's exit from the Big East in the wake of the Big East's turning down ESPN's billion dollar television deal in May during an exclusive negotiating window. ESPN has a billion dollar deal with the A.C.C., making that move either savvy business or collusion, depending on one's perspective.

Here's a perspective: it's not collusion if there's no rule against it. For all the NCAA's byzantine bylaws, there's precious little legislation governing the biggest transactions of all. Follow the money, and you'll find a few thriving conferences, and TV networks getting rich off of showing their games. That's not collusion: that's the free market in action that college football seems so desperate to keep away from its athletes.