Big East Tournament agrees to 10-year extension with Garden

Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco answers a question

Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco answers a question during a college football game between Connecticut and Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J. (Oct. 6, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Big East commissioner Mike Aresco announced that a 10-year extension has been reached for the conference's men's basketball tournament to remain at Madison Square Garden.

Aresco, speaking at the conference's media day at the New York Athletic Club Wednesday, also said he is optimistic about hammering out an extension with ESPN on broadcasting rights.

MSG confirmed the extension to continue hosting the tournament. The current deal between MSG and the Big East ran through 2016.

The Big East and the Garden will have some new competition in March as the Barclays Center in Brooklyn will host the Atlantic 10 Tournament. In an earlier interview, Aresco said he was unconcerned about the newcomers and was focusing on his own conference.

As for the TV deal, ESPN's exclusive negotiating window with the Big East ends Oct. 31, but Burke Magnus, ESPN's senior vice president for college sports programming, said that time period is just "a procedural thing. We have 34 years together. In a lot of ways the Big East and ESPN grew up together. With that long partnership, we're hopeful it continues. We're encouraged by Mike's presence and his leadership. We'll see where it goes."

Aresco said, "We're talking. Talks have been good and constructive. We're nearing the end of the negotiating period, but we're optimistic about getting something done. They value our product immensely, we value them. We're continuing to talk. We'll see."

Aresco, the former CBS sports executive vice president, would not rule out looking elsewhere, saying, "If something else develops, we'll see. We have a lot of interest from other networks and you would expect that because our product is so good and so plentiful. Right now we're committed to our exclusive negotiating period and we'll see where it goes."

Asked about forming a Big East network as an adjunct to a new rights deal, Aresco said, "We never rule out anything. Is that a possibility down the road? It is, but again we are talking to ESPN now."

Magnus negotiated the ACC's reported 15-year, $3.6-billion extension with ESPN. That amount was sweetened when Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced they were leaving the Big East for the ACC. Aresco said the ACC deal was not a "model" for what his conference is seeking.

Magnus said the loss of Pitt and Syracuse did not devalue the Big East. "I think the Big East has done a good job in this fractious time of people coming, people going," he said. "We think they've done a good job in replacing what they lost."

Chicago-based Navigate, which analyzes sponsorship in sports and entertainment, projected a 10-year rights deal between ESPN and the Big East at $1.6 billion.

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in Madison Square Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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