Back when the Big East announced it had hired Mike Aresco as commissioner, the move was universally praised.
We see why today.
Aresco will never take credit, but he was a key reason why the Big East has a form of guaranteed access in the future playoff structure. That was just the cherry on top of what he has done in three months in charge:
Got the Big East on the open market for TV negotiations.
Kept members happy, squelching many of the whispers we heard about unhappiness from basketball-only teams.
Got divisions squared away
Kept the Big East relevant into the future.
While it is true that the Big East remained confident that it would never really lose access despite automatic qualifying status being stripped from everyone back in June, there were serious questions about where the league would fit in the landscape. Back then, the Big East had no commissioner, and it had no tie-in to a contract bowl game.
Now, it has somebody with connections to every commissioner in the room. That clearly helped the league when talks about access began in earnest last September. Those discussions took various forms, but they ended with a guaranteed spot for the highest finisher among the Big East, MAC, Mountain West, Conference USA and Sun Belt. It is not as ideal as the system today; but it is better than having no access at all.
"I never felt that we would end up with no access, because the commissioners all favored it. I knew they weren't going back on their word," Aresco told fellow Big East blogger Matt Fortuna on Tuesday after the Big East presidents' meeting in Chicago. "The question was whether we did a seventh bowl, whether we did a sixth bowl, which was a contract bowl within the six-bowl system, with two access bowls, or whether we ultimately figured out something different, which we did with the access."
Aresco did confirm these types of talks have evolved since September, his first month on the job. So he clearly worked his tail off to get something done for this league, a true representative and advocate for the Big East.
After all, he has spent his life in television, so it should come as no shock he knows how to sell his product.
"I went out there with the idea that I had to come back with some access for the Big East," Aresco said. Teaming up with the other four conferences "was certainly one way to achieve it," he said. "We had good cooperation among this group."
For the first time in a long time, the Big East seems secure. There are no realignment rumors percolating, and the future playoff system does not really seem to warrant a conference like the Big 12 needing to expand at this very moment. The SEC and ACC are simply not going beyond 14 teams right now. The Big Ten is happy with 12. So is the Pac-12.
We could be entering a no expansion zone for the first time in quite a while. That will only help the Big East re-brand itself and rebuild itself. And more than ever, Aresco seems the perfect choice to lead this league into a new era.