Big East was planning TV before losses
NEW YORK -- The Big East was working on a plan for members to hand over their most lucrative television rights to the league before Syracuse and Pittsburgh decided to leave.
Commissioner John Marinatto said the league plans to revive discussions about grant of rights when the conference becomes more stable.
A grant of rights is a contractual agreement between a conference and school that makes switching leagues virtually impossible. The school would have to leave the TV rights for most of its football games behind.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 schools have granted their rights to the conferences, while Big 12 leaders, in an effort to bring stability to their league, recently agreed to grant their top-tier TV rights to the conference for at least six years.
"We were actually planning to move forward with a similar concept prior to the situation that occurred three weeks ago," Marinatto said Wednesday during the Big East's men's basketball media day in Manhattan.
Last month, Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced they were leaving the Big East to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Marinatto said the Oct. 2 meeting of Big East presidents in Washington was originally supposed to be about the league's upcoming television negotiations. The conference's deals with ESPN run through next season.
That meeting instead ended up being about how to move on without Pitt and Syracuse.
"It was intended to talk about those things. The grant of rights and moving forward with our TV plans and solidifying what we were going to do," he said.
The Big East is now trying to become a 12-team football league. The plan is to add SMU, Houston, UCF, Navy, Air Force and Boise State to the remaining football members: Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida, Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers.
No invitations have gone out yet, but that could change soon. Once the Big East gets membership sorted out, grant of rights will again be a topic of discussion.
"We're going to talk about it again as we move forward and get more stability in our league," Marinatto said. "Of all of the tools that you can use to reinforce stability, I think that's probably the most important and the most effective."
If everything falls into place perfectly for the Big East, and it loses no more members, the league could have 14 football schools and 19 basketball schools next year.
Marinatto said again that Pitt and Syracuse, who are contractually bound to the league for the next two seasons, will not be allowed out earlier.
"Absolutely not," he said. "We have no intentions of doing that. Period. Exclamation point. End of sentence."
He said 19 basketball teams makes for easy scheduling.
"We've modeled it. If you have a 19-team basketball conference everybody plays each other once," he said. "We've actually done models for 24."
While the Big East was built on basketball, expansion and conference realignment in major college athletics has been driven by football.
The Big East has made protecting its status as an automatic qualifying conference in the Bowl Championship Series its top priority in expansion. That's why landing Boise State, which is 2,685 miles away from the Big East offices in Providence, R.I., is so important.
The current BCS television and bowl contracts run through the 2013 season. The Big East's AQ status is locked in through those deals. Beyond that there are no guarantees for any league.
The commissioners of the 11 major college football conferences will start discussing the future of the BCS beyond 2013 next year.
"It's not appropriate to speculate about what the standards for automatic qualification will be," BCS executive director Bill Hancock said. "Nobody knows."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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