Realignment is a massive game of musical chairs, and the tone-deaf Big East didn't hear the music stop. The conference, under John Marinatto, was convinced only a few megapowers would be left standing. They were right. Their mistake was thinking they were one of them. That's why they lost every program of value, and more than $900 million in TV revenue.
Back in the spring of 2011, at the height of realignment uncertainty, ESPN tried to lock down the Big East. (We'll call them that for the sake of ease, even though they're losing the name. It's either that or "Son Of Conference USA.") ESPN offered what was later reported to be a nine-year deal, worth $1.17 billion. That would have come out to about $130 million a year, top tier money but still behind the power conferences. The Big East thought they could get more—experts were split—and backed out once the Pac-12 signed its monster deal.
Then, it all went to hell. The dream of building a football conference drowned in raids and exit fees. The "Catholic 7" pillaged the basketball powerhouses. Whatever the Big East's next incarnation, it will be built around schools like SMU, Tulane, Temple, USF. Leverage: gone, and ESPN hastily returned to the bargaining table.
Today made official what had been reported last month: ESPN matched NBC Sports Network's offer, and locked down the Big East until 2020 for $126 million. That'd be seven years, at $18 million per. That's 14 percent of the annual payouts on the table two years ago, but who's counting?
Commissioner Mike Aresco, a former TV sports executive, for one. In a Times profile last week he sounds like a broken man, who had mid-majordom unwillingly thrust upon him.
“You ready to watch some basketball?” he asked. “That will be a relief.”
All the good basketball teams are leaving.