Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco was in New Orleans on Wednesday to view the Sugar Bowl between his leauge’s Louisville Cardinals and Florida. He spoke the The Advocate about the status of the Big East:
You’ve spent your career dealing with colleges from the TV end. Has it been personally disappointing to you that since you came on the job there has seemingly been nothing but turmoil within the conference? Or is this just a challenge for you to help make the Big East the best league it can be?
It’s a challenge you accept. I’m working very hard to do the right things and create a stable situation. Even when I was at CBS and watching the conference scenarios, it was very difficult. It’s driven by revenues and that has caused rivalries to be broken up and other things to have happened. None of us like the fact that there hasn’t been the kind of stability we want. But that’s the world we live in now in college athletes. You just have work though it.
Both publically and privately, the admission of Tulane to the league has been viewed as the deal breaker for the Catholic 7. Is that fair?
Not at all. Obviously, Louisville leaving along with the others was a concern. The possibility of more conference realignment was a concern to the basketball schools. They also felt that all of the realignment issues had been football-related. Eventually, they decided they wanted to go back to their basketball roots. Tulane was admitted unanimously, and we are very happy to have Tulane. Tulane will bring a lot to this conference.
Is there any possibility of Tulane’s membership being moved up rather than waiting until 2014?
We haven’t really talked about that. The plan is for Tulane to join in 2014, and there are various things that need to be worked out when teams come in, and we haven’t had any discussions at this point.
The Big East has one more year of AQ status in the BCS. Considering the diminished state of the league in 2013, is there any danger that being taken away?
We have a contract with the BCS, and we fully expected to keep our AQ status in 2013. We have 11 teams, possibly 10. Regardless, Louisville and Rutgers will be playing in our league, so we have no reason to believe that things will change.
You had not been hired when the conference admitted Boise State and San Diego State for football only. Was that a course you would have followed?
I don’t want to speculate on something like that. Clearly the intent was to attract good teams to the Big East. There was a lot of strategic discussions I wasn’t a part of. It was a model that I think could have worked. But the ground shifted a bit, and you have to adapt to that. The league did not have all the facts at the time.
Boise State was able to retain TV rights for its home games as part of its deal to remain in the Mountain West. Would that have been acceptable to the Big East?
First off, Boise also had geographic issues. Boise talked to us and our membership about retaining their rights, but we could not support a school doing its own deal for its home games. There were other things we were willing to do short of that, but ultimately, in the end, we just couldn’t do some of the things they wanted.
Do you see the Group of Five coming together to perhaps realign under more realistic geographic lines, or is there always going to competition to be No. 1 among them?
Right now, we’re in transition. We are always one of the group of six. We’re still part of that, and we feel we are a very strong conference going forward. Geographically, from Texas through the Southeast and up the East Coast, we are a cohesive group. There’s been a lot of talk about alliances, and you get into a numbers issue of what makes sense because of scheduling and revenues. That’s something always going to be speculated about. It doesn’t mean that people won’t be looking at it, but there are lot issues with that.
Do expect the schools staying in the Big East to retain that name or will it be sold to the Catholic 7?
At this point, we expect that the name will stay with the conference group. Down the road, though, if the Catholic group shows interest, we would sit down and negotiate with them.
The tournament in Madison Square Garden is also up for negotiation. It will be done amicably.
When is the dust going to settle on this?
There’s been so much instability for the last couple of years that we all hope the dust settles soon and we can go on with our business. There’s reason to think it will. In our case, San Diego State has to make a decision. That should come, I would think, not too far off. We want them to stay, so that’s one thing we will be watching. But we thought the dust had settled, and when the Big Ten took Rutgers and Maryland, it started it again.
It would be good for everyone to be able to regroup and figure out where we are.
Where do you see the Big East in 2014?
I want to see a strong, cohesive group. We obviously want to have a good TV contract that gives us the exposure and revenue we need. We also want to remain competitive in football and basketball, which we feel we will be. We also want to be strong in Olympic sports as well. Our goal is stability.