- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Today, the Big East officially enters a new era.
All those adjectives used to describe the Big East? You know 'em too well. Too passive. Too reactionary. Too old-school.
Throw them in the trash, along with all those jokes about the Big Least.
The Big East proved itself forward-thinking and visionary on Monday when it hired CBS executive Mike Aresco as its new commissioner. This is a bold move, made to ensure this conference not only survives into the future -- but thrives into the future.
Nearly one year ago, the Big East was left for dead when Syracuse, Pitt, TCU and West Virginia decided to leave. Remaining members went to their contacts and dialed out for help, hoping a lifeline would save them from what West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck called a "sinking ship."
Then-commissioner John Marinatto did his best to calm the waters, inviting some of the better teams outside the automatic qualifying conferences. Temple joins this year; Boise State, San Diego State, UCF, SMU, Houston and Memphis next year; Navy in 2015.
At that point, the Big East had little choice but to invite in the best of the rest in order to actually field a football conference. Marinatto was blamed for not being a visionary leader, for not anticipating the stunning departures, for being completely unprepared to handle a second wave of realignment that gutted the fabric of the Big East.
So he resigned, a mutual decision designed to ensure the Big East moves forward with somebody who can steer the league during the most critical stage in its history. No. 1 on the commissioner wish list -- somebody with a television background. Why? The Big East enters make-or-break television negotiations in September, negotiations that the league has been eagerly anticipating for over two years.
Marinatto used to say it was a huge benefit to the Big East that it had last dibs at securing its TV media-rights deal, because it could sit back, examine and analyze all the rich deals that have preceded it. The Big East saw how the Pac-12 used its leverage to secure an eye-popping deal. The Big East saw the value the ACC got.
But does the Big East truly benefit? Ever since turning down a reported deal from ESPN last May, there has been much speculation about what the Big East's new television deal will be worth. With a completely reconfigured lineup, there are countless educated guesses but no real answers.
Now that the Big East has hired Aresco, perhaps those answers become clearer. Aresco has an extensive college programming background. He was the architect of the groundbreaking billion-dollar deal the SEC received from CBS a few years ago. He led the billion-dollar TV rights deal between CBS and the NCAA for the men’s basketball tournament.
Before working at CBS, he had his hand in college sports programming at ESPN. This is a man with contacts not only in the television world, but across every conference in the college world. He has a sparkling résumé and a reputation that has earned him nothing but raves from the colleagues who have sat across from him at the bargaining table.
Couple his hire with the announcement that noted sports-media business guru Chris Bevilacqua will help steer the upcoming TV negotiations, and you see that the Big East finally gets it. The Big East clearly and truly understands its future hinges on what happens with this TV rights deal. And it clearly and truly understands the role television plays in the marketplace.
Let’s face it. Television has changed the face of college football. These multibillion-dollar deals have made conferences and programs grow richer and stronger. But these deals also have set off the ground-shaking realignment that has caused upheaval over the last three years. No conference has felt that more than the Big East.
But now the Big East has its shot to make everything right, with a man who has made a living negotiating television rights deals.
After all the darkness, there is now hope.
A new day truly has arrived for the Big East.