The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

July 19, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN: Why doesn’t Big East form own network?

MORGANTOWN — Thoughts while driving home from South Bend, Ind., after covering the College Hall of Fame weekend induction of former West Virginia University quarterback Major Harris:

Last week, while interviewing new WVU athletic director Oliver Luck about his first week on the job, the talk turned to radio and television rights and that kind of planted a seed.

See, much of this restructuring of college football, which was initiated by the Big Ten, had to do with that conference possessing its own television network on cable and satellite and its desire to expand into some of the markets that belong to the Big East.

To do that, they would raid the Big East and take away Rutgers or Syracuse or Pittsburgh, which would open the East Coast market to them.

So?

Well, if the markets are so desirable, why doesn’t the Big East form its own network?

The truth is, the Big East actually has as big or bigger markets than does the Big Ten. Think about it for a minute.

Rutgers is in the New York metropolitan area. Syracuse is a big city. Pittsburgh is a big city. Marquette is in Milwaukee, Villanova in Philadelphia, DePaul in Chicago, which also would eat up Notre Dame sports other than football. Then you have Louisville and Cincinnati and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.

What’s more, if any conference should expand, it is the Big East football conference, which surely will add a ninth team sometime in the future and, if not hurt by the Big Ten raid, could jump to 12 teams easily, maybe adding Memphis and Orlando to its market mix.

Luck was asked his thoughts on the matter. He noted that there are two different models at work in the industry.

“There’s the traditional model,” he said. “The ACC upped their deal with ESPN, for example. What they did is say to ESPN ‘Here’s our rights, how much will you give us for them?’ That’s the model pretty much everyone is using (including the Big East) except the Big Ten.

“They are on Comcast. In my house in Houston, I can get the Big 10 Network,” Luck continued. “I bought the premium package, mainly so I could watch my son, Andrew, play at Stanford. I can tell you this, I have not spent more than 20 seconds watching the Big Ten Network. I’m not interested in Purdue women’s softball.

“But I am contributing every month a dime to the Big Ten because it’s on my package. That deal is in place a lot of places. In some markets it may cost a quarter, in others a dollar. That’s a totally different business model.”

The way Luck sees it, because of that television model, they will continue to push expansion.

“In a way, it’s odd they picked Nebraska for expansion. It’s a great football program, but it’s a pretty small state,” he said. “If that is their business model, they eventually have to look at schools in a congested, large metropolitan area.”

But do they take a school simply because of its location? Luck thinks not.

“I look at a Rutgers and say to myself, ‘That just doesn’t fit with the Big Ten.’ It’s a fine institution, but it doesn’t seem to fit.”

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