The Big East, which will begin negotiations on a pivotal new television package Sept. 1, announced the hiring of CBS executive vice president Mike Aresco as its new commissioner.
Aresco, 62, who will be introduced at a news conference Wednesday in Manhattan, faces the immediate challenge of stabilizing a conference that is losing core members in West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse and has stretched its football borders to include Boise State and San Diego State. Also set to join the Big East in 2013 are Memphis, Central Florida, Houston and SMU.
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Further expansion in the Big 12 and ACC could target additional Big East schools.
The conference's TV deal with ESPN expires in June 2013 and the network has a 60-day exclusive negotiating window with the conference.
"The Big East is a longtime and valued partner," ESPN said in a statement to Newsday. "We look forward to having conversations with them and will be competitive but prudent on an agreement that makes business sense."
Aresco, at CBS since 1996, started at ESPN in 1984 and eventually was responsible for the development of the network's college sports properties.
The Big East recently hired the firm of Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures to negotiate the new deal, but Aresco, who led CBS' negotiations with the NCAA for the men's basketball tournament and also was responsible for that network's 15-year deal with the SEC, will be a pivotal figure in the talks. "Mike's a great choice," said former Massapequa resident Chris Bevilacqua, a co-founder of the sports media firm. "Mike has obviously been around, not only the Big East, but the college guy at CBS for many years. He knows how college sports work, the important relationship elements. He's attuned to all of that. I think that's going to be very valuable."
Bevilacqua said the conference will not suffer at the negotiating table because of its defections or perceived instability.
"There's a beautiful thing about being a scare, valuable live sports property," he said. "There's a lot of companies that covet that. ESPN is one of many who will have an interest in this product. I know they have been with the Big East from the beginning. I would expect there would be a very thoughtful discussion."