Orange Watch: Syracuse leaving behind dysfunctional Big East

Item: Big East school presidents, where were you last time the league’s TV contract was expiring?

It’s going to be a melancholy farewell tour of the Big East circuit covering Orange athletics for 2012-13.

What was once a great basketball conference eventually shot itself in the foot with the inability to find strength in numbers by molding two distinct factions: 1. The large football schools eyeing bigger and bigger paydays as the BCS strengthened its grip on the sport; and 2. The basketball-only, smaller Catholic-based schools, especially the charter members, trying to protect their turf.

Last year, the Big East failed to finalize a contract with ESPN that would have instantly added more to everyone’s coffers (somewhere between $7-8 million/year). Instead, it became the catalyst to the Orange, Pitt, WVU and TCU to wave goodbye to the conference last fall.

Too much uncertainty lost out to ‘$tability.’

» Related: With Big East in flux, Syracuse was right to leave
» More Orange Watch with Brad Bierman: Looking forward in the crystal ball

As this college sports year calendar winds down, the Big East finally did what it had to do in migrating to a 3.0 version of 21st century major college sports management by asking for, and receiving, John Marinatto’s resignation on May 6.

We’re not here to sing the overall praises for Marinatto during his three year run. But again, unless there was uniformity among the 16 bosses Marinatto had to serve, he was trying to do his job with one hand tied behind his back.

By installing a huge Boston-based, international business consulting firm to launch a thorough review of the league’s entire structure and operations under the temporary leadership of longtime pro football executive Joe Bailey, the Big East president’s agenda is clear.

The Big East must find someone who will make sure the league gets as much money as possible for its assets. That person must secure TV programming for an ever-competitive, multi-platform landscape, and make sure not to be shut out of the BCS and the new playoff system coming following the 2014 bowl season.

The first item is certainly made easier by the fact that multiple bidders will be eyeing the Big East contract. The second task more daunting as it will likely be performances on the field that eventually dictate the new BCS qualifications and alignment.

Fortunately for Cuse athletics, the 14 team ACC doesn’t have those problems with a nine-game football schedule and 18 games in hoops, more currency with the BCS, more desirable and stable bowl tie-ins and a healthy, renegotiated ESPN contract announced just this week. It will mean at least some $17 million a year per school for almost 15 years, double the Big East’s 2011 ESPN deal.

(And for Syracuse’ football schedule, a likely annual season-ending Friday night TV game over Thanksgiving weekend either hosting, or at Boston College.)

Time to get that full field indoor football practice complex built adjacent to Manley.

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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