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ESPN Secures Big East Rights, Appears Interested In Airing As Few Big East Games As Possible

Get your Internet streams and digital sports tier channels ready, people. It's going to be a long six years.

USF vs. Cincinnati, coming to a Wednesday night or Internet stream near you in 2014!
USF vs. Cincinnati, coming to a Wednesday night or Internet stream near you in 2014!
Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Let's briefly talk about ESPN matching NBC Sports Network's offer for Big East football and basketball.

We already showed you how this contract gives schools less money than the last Big East TV contract, and even less than the one before that. So let's focus on something else -- namely, that the bidding war that everyone assumed would develop for the rights was probably never even going to happen. One of our readers got into a conversation with John Ourand, the author of the Sports Business Journal article, and Ourand made this critical point:

This really underscores how horrible the last TV contract was. Now that we see it in hindsight, Mike Tranghese should never again be allowed to call up one of his buddies in the press or go on a radio show and talk smack about what the Big East should have done in the past. Not only did he lock the conference in with ESPN's exclusive 60-day negotiating window, but he let ESPN match whatever offer someone else made to them, without allowing any opportunity for counteroffers or bids. So when NBC Sports Network stupidly lowballed the league, trying to get cheap programming, ESPN decided to counter it without being particularly interested in the programming. It seems like they just wanted to stick it to a competitor and couldn't care less how many games they put on TV.

Say what you will about the NBC Sports Network, but at least they probably had genuine interest in showing Big East games. They had plenty of room to air them on Thursdays and Saturdays, they had NBC available for a few games, and you could count on most of your games making it on national TV on normal college football days. I doubt you're going to get that from ESPN, which has much, much bigger investments to recoup.

In fact, down near the bottom of the Sports Business Journal article, you see this:

"Sources say ESPN is likely to sublicense a significant amount of games to other networks, such as Fox Sports, which is launching Fox Sports 1 this summer."

Well, that's not all bad. It may not be easy to find Fox Sports 1 on cable systems for awhile, and that will be rough. But for local broadcasts I guess we can fall back on USF's relationship with Fox Spo… what's that you say? USF doesn't have a relationship with Fox Sports? And UF, FSU, Miami, and UCF already have them? And some genius on Team USF signed us up on Bright House's sports network, which not everyone has locally, which isn't available for Bulls fans outside of Tampa and Orlando, and which has no problem pre-empting our basketball games for girls' high school hoops? Sounds great!

So this is what USF is stuck with -- a pittance of money coming from a network that, deep down, doesn't really want to show any of their games. Most of their games will either be on odd weeknights, or put on some Internet stream somewhere, or sublicensed to channels that fans don't even have. Good luck answering those questions about playing on TV from recruits, USF coaches.

(Oh, and since all the northeastern schools are leaving the league except for UConn, satellite subscribers outside of Tampa likely won't get to watch games on SNY or MASN anymore, as they start showing ACC games instead. It's OK, though. I wanted an extra degree of difficulty in running this blog, on top of the one I already have blogging about a bunch of terrible teams.)