The Big East has turned to CBS Sports executive Mike Aresco to become its next commissioner.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Big East has selected its Mr. Fix-It. A basketball league found somebody with legitimate football cleats.
His name is Mike Aresco. He has the necessary law degree to survive in the shark tank with Mike Slive and Jim Delany, the determined attorneys that run the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten.
But Aresco will arrive with another essential qualification: His background is in network television and college football. That's where the Big East has been vulnerable, losing considerable ground to other leagues.
This line jumps off his resume: "He was the architect of ESPN's signature Thursday night college football series and was instrumental in developing ESPN's highly successful 'Bowl Week.'"
Buckle up your chinstraps. The Big East is tired of getting chop-blocked. Aresco has negotiated major deals at ESPN and CBS with a strong background in programming. Aresco knows what the networks are looking for and where Big East football and basketball must be placed to survive.
His connections in the bowl community are considerable. His resume shows experience with the NCAA Tournament, including the popular live-streaming of games over the Internet. He's not afraid to launch new programming ideas.
The first three commissioners of the Big East were Providence University guys. They served the league well – especially founder Dave Gavitt and his successor Mike Tranghese. But Mike Aresco is a man of the entire sporting world. He'll need every connection he's developed to get Big East football back in the game.
Aresco won't have much warm-up time. The problems dogging the Big East are considerable. The league has suffered from being reactive in a pro-active, Darwinian environment. The SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 have advantages with tradition, performance and TV markets that no administrator can overcome without help from an improved product.
But Aresco is certainly a logical choice, considering the battering the Big East has taken while losing teams to other conferences. His first job will be to monetize a football product working with 13 schools that have little shared tradition and are going to be spaced over four time zones and 11 states.
The league will enter an exclusive two-month negotiating period for a new TV deal with ESPN on Sept. 1, but folks around the league have not been shy in talking about a move to NBC and its ambitious sports network.
"It's going to be difficult," ESPN college football analyst Rod Gilmore said. "The Big East is at a crossroads. They don't have a TV contract (beyond 2013 in football) and they don't have a place in the top bowl games.
"The Big East has been grouped with the Mountain West, Conference USA and some of those leagues, outside of the big boys. I don't know if the Big East can become strong enough to become a big-time player."
Those are all fair concerns. The Big East was launched in 1979 as a basketball conference. It waited until 1991 to become a football league, too. The Big East has been playing catch-up from the first snap.
Only two of the original football schools will still part of the mix next season – and Temple is making its return after an eight-season absence. The Orange Bowl preferred an on-going relationship with the Atlantic Coast Conference to maintaining one with the Big East. The league's bowl tie-ins are a major recruiting problem. The league's automatic qualifier status in the Bowl Championship Series disappears when the BCS disappears after next season.
Aresco knows all that – and still gave up his position as executive vice president for programming with CBS, the most powerful network in college sports.
That's encouraging for the Big East.
Aresco negotiated the CBS deals that will pay the SEC $3 billion over 15 seasons. CBS changed the terms of its deal with the NCAA to share the men's basketball tournament with Turner Sports in 2011. Aresco was in the middle of that, too.
Now Mike Aresco has a new assignment – rebrand and revive the Big East.