No matter how great the Big East looks today with the hire of CBS executive Mike Aresco as its new commissioner, it is impossible to overlook many of the daunting challenges that remain for this league.
There is the matter of negotiating a new TV deal to secure this league into the future.
There is the matter of trying to bring together football schools and basketball schools, separate entities that have butted heads in the past.
There is the matter of making sure nobody else leaves in the next year.
There is the matter of changing the national perception of the Big East.
There is the matter of making sure the Big East is at the same table as the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Pac-12 in the future playoff format.
To his credit, Aresco has already embraced all these challenges and provided his answers for how he is going to solve them. During his introductory news conference and media call Wednesday, Aresco deftly handled each question thrown his way, laying out his vision for a "state-of-the art" Big East that transforms itself from punchline to national leader on the field and in the classroom.
He touted a unified Big East, saying the football schools and basketball schools enhance and strengthen each other. He touted the national reach of the conference, believing it brings value to upcoming TV negotiations. He touted the excellence of the incoming members, pointing at the recent success of Boise State, Houston, SMU and UCF. He made sure to say he did not forsee any membership changes in the near future.
None of this should come as a major surprise. Every commissioner should passionately defend his conference. Part of their job is to accentuate the positive; to try to make even the biggest skeptics believers. Aresco did exceptionally well in that regard.
What was most encouraging about the call was the clear vision Aresco laid out to change the dimming national perception about the Big East. He mentioned several times he wants to be a tireless cheerleader, to make people truly understand what the Big East has moving forward. That is something that has been missing for the last year, when the Big East took a major hit in the realignment wave that swept college football.
The Big East needs a vocal advocate. More importantly, it needs a vocal advocate with connections. It seems to have one in Aresco, who should use his relationships with every single powerbroker in college football to first and foremost make sure nobody ever again uses the term "Power 5," one that has seemingly left the Big East on the outside looking in.
"I’m not phased by any of that," Aresco said. "The Big East deserves to be one of the Big Six. It is one of the Big Six. What I want people to recognize is this conference has reconstituted itself. People might be overlooking the strength of the institutions that have been added, especially in football, and the quality in football and the major markets they’re in and the possibilities. … In the end, the Big East has to perform on the field and on the court. It has done that in the past, and if it does so in football, things will take care of itself."
"I will make the case to everyone."
There is no denying the perception problem that exists, exacerbated with the way commissioners openly dismissed the Big East this summer during postseason negotiations. The Big East responded with silence. Not one league official came to the defense of the league. There are no excuses, not even having an interim commissioner. Because Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas was just as vocal as Mike Slive of the SEC, Jim Delany of the Big Ten, Larry Scott of the Pac-12 and John Swofford of the ACC.
Each of those commissioners has made it a priority to do interviews and make the case for their conferences. Aresco must do this moving forward. He cannot hide behind closed doors, the way former commissioner John Marinatto often did. He has to be present, visible and accountable. Behind securing a billion dollar TV deal, his second priority must be changing the perception of the Big East.
"What I need to do is make sure the current membership feels I am a tireless proponent of the conference, that I am telling the conference’s story effectively and well, that I am a good ambassador for the conference," Aresco said. "This conference is very excited to move forward. I would not have taken this job if I didn’t feel confident this conference was cohesive, the individual schools committed to each other."
The Big East faces extraordinary challenges -- different from any other league in the nation -- because of its structure and complexity. Aresco understands that.
His grand vision is an important one. But it must be executed perfectly for the Big East to have any hope at changing the national conversation.