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Soon-to-be-renamed Big East, ESPN complete TV deal

  • Article by: RACHEL COHEN
  • Associated Press
  • March 19, 2013 - 3:11 PM

NEW YORK - The soon-to-be-former Big East made one big component final Tuesday, announcing its broadcasting deal with ESPN.

Now it still needs a new name, a conference basketball tournament site, a revenue-sharing system and a 12th football member.

The media contract for football, basketball and other sports runs through the 2019-20 season and pays about $20 million a year. The so-called Catholic 7 basketball schools are leaving the conference and taking the Big East name; they'll announce their agreement with Fox on Wednesday.

The renamed league will include South Florida, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Temple, Memphis, Central Florida, SMU and Houston in 2013. East Carolina and Tulane are to join in 2014 and Navy is scheduled for football in 2015.

The conference is seeking a 12th football school so it can play a title game in '15.

ESPN senior vice president Burke Magnus believes the new alliances will strengthen the league's members in recruiting and fan support, making its games more and more appealing as time goes on.

"We're excited about the upside here," said Magnus, who heads the network's college sports programming.

The conference's commissioner, Mike Aresco, says it plans to announce a new name this spring, perhaps as early as next month, to get marketing started quickly. Branding groups, school presidents and business partners are being consulted to narrow the list.

Meanwhile, fans weigh in through social media.

"It's like a national focus group," Aresco said.

The conference also needs to choose a conference basketball tournament site for next year soon. It will probably be in a city where a member school plays.

Other tasks include determining how to distribute the money from departing schools' exit fees and other sources.

ESPN has been affiliated with the Big East in its various incarnations for more than three decades. The network will own rights to at least 66 football games and 170 men's basketball games annually for various platforms, licensing some to other channels.

Magnus said it had not been determined yet if the conference would have a weekly basketball fixture on ESPN like the longstanding "Big Monday" games. Some football will be played on Thursday and Friday, but there has been no talk of Tuesdays, Aresco said.

With Texas schools joining, Aresco added, conference officials will be sensitive to conflicts with that state's beloved Friday night high school football games.

Aresco is confident the Catholic 7 schools will face their former fellow Big East members in basketball in future nonconference games because the split was amicable. The league expects to announce an additional over-the-air TV deal for basketball next week; its current contract is with CBS.

There's a slight chance the football title game could start in 2014. Aresco says it will likely be held on campus, as the Pac-12 does, at least for the first few years.

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