Jay Wright: FOX Sports 1 gives coaches a 'different' confidence than did ESPN

USA TODAY Sports

FOX Sports enters its first year of Big East basketball exclusivity in 2013-14.

Leaving the familiar for the unknown can be an intimidating decision.

The Big East Conference's new alliance with FOX Sports 1 - a fledgling network aimed at expanding the Fox Sports empire into college sports - has made some skeptical since the official announcement in March. The league's 34-year relationship with ESPN, the world's leading sports network, was a key contributor to the Big East's progression into the top basketball conference in the nation.

As the Big East transitions from that dependable reliance to one with a two month-old network in its infancy stage, there is a noticeable combination of excitement and reluctance among all with a stake.

But that's what they will do this season, as FOX Sports' lucrative deal with the Big East will result in over a hundred of the league's games televised on FS1 in 2013-14. Bringing aboard the rambunctious Gus Johnson and the lovable Bill Raftery was a strategically smart move to develop the network's brand, yet there is still much to prove.

Needing to prove sustainable quality will be an evident trend around Big East basketball this year. Not only is FOX in a position of minimal margin for error, but also is the conference itself. After breaking away from the revenues (and heartache) of football-focused institutions, the Big East has undergone a specialized rejuvenation.

As Johnson mentioned during his remarks at Big East Media Day on Wednesday, FOX Sports 1 will be dedicated and exciting. More importantly, it supposedly will not attempt to be in direct competition with ESPN.

But how is that possible? ESPN has televised the Big East since the league's inception in 1979. Now, FOX must prove that ESPN was simply an important component of the league's success, as opposed to a necessary one.

FOX will only be promoting the Big East, and it's interesting to know that you're their show. -Jay Wright

Coaches throughout the 10-team league have instilled confidence in FOX's ability to maintain the league's exposure, but it isn't the same.

"It's a different kind of confidence," said Villanova head coach Jay Wright on Wednesday. "You always had confidence that ESPN would get you exposure. The confidence you have in FOX is that they are investing in only our conference."

With its relationship with FOX, the Big East will be produced through a different lens. Many familiar faces who have analyzed Big East basketball for years - Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps, for example - won't be in the limelight for Villanova and Georgetown or Marquette and St. John's.

What the league has accomplished with the shift is exclusivity. FOX Sports 1 is the Big East's main network, and no one else's.

"When you're on ESPN, you know you're going to be on. But you also know that they're going to promote the ACC and the Big Ten," Wright continued. "FOX will only be promoting the Big East, and it's interesting to know that you're their show."

Wright, who has been at Villanova since 2001, is now the league's longest tenured head coach. After years of following the leads of Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino and Jim Calhoun in coaches' meetings, Wright is now the standard. He knows the Big East better than anyone.

When asked if he is worried if his fan base will struggle to adjust to his Wildcats playing on FS1, Wright replied, "It's something we've worked on. In our society today, people tend to turn on the TV and hit 'Menu' to find 'Basketball' to see what games are listed. I mean, it's what I do."

While Fox Sports 1 may not be trying to compete with ESPN, no one can now compete with them for Big East exposure. The league has thrown all of its eggs in the basket, and seems to be confident in its decision.

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