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Big East discusses contract, scheduling issues at spring meetings

The Big East is undergoing a lot of changes. How will they affect Steve Lavin and St. John's?
The Big East is undergoing a lot of changes. How will they affect Steve Lavin and St. John's?

The Big East may seem chaotic, but the league has been able to hold successful organized meetings this week in Florida.

Coaches and athletic directors from the majority of the Big East schools convened in Ponte Vedra Beach to discuss the problems that face the conference and plausible solutions. What was very recently believed to be a stable eastern power conferences has been struck by turmoil, and those in charge know that something needs to be done.

Seemingly endless conference realignment, an impending television contract negotiation, and executive uncertainties have changed the public's perception of the Big East. In the eyes of the external sports world, the conference is becoming unstable, unreliable, and inferior.

Despite losing two of its top programs to the ACC, the league has welcomed in four new programs. No one knows for sure who is staying or who is going. The important decisions are being made by a board headlined by an interim commissioner. Future retainment of current TV revenue levels is unconfirmed.

Everything is falling apart, or so it seems. But, after spring meetings, Big East officials, ADs, and coaches believe otherwise.

More, below the fold.

Offseason meetings, in any sport or business, are essential in identifying the state of an organization, recognizing any pertinent concerns, and developing harmonious compromises. The NFL and NBA each avoided extended lockouts by making necessary adjustments at such meetings in 2011.


The first order of business at the meetings this week was discussing the upcoming TV contract negotiations. Joe Bailey, the league's interim commissioner, mentioned in his opening teleconference that the Big East will talk with a number of networks to converse about the logistics of a deal somewhere close to the $3.6 million contract just signed by the ACC with ESPN.

"That's the kind of event that needs to happen for us to show signs of stability," said the Big East's senior associate commissioner, Nick Carparelli. (Credit: Keith Pompey, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Yes, you read that right. Even the Big East executives are making it known that the league may need a solid network contract to remain stable - to survive. Negotiations with what Bailey believes will be a considerable number of possible suitors will begin in September.


Of the 18 basketball coaches of the future Big East, only 13 represented their programs at Monday and Tuesday's meetings. All but Jim Calhoun (UConn), Rick Pitino (Louisville), Fran Dunphy (Temple), Josh Pastner (Memphis), and Larry Brown (SMU) were in attendance. Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) and Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh), whose programs have announced moves to the ACC, were not invited.

With an 18-team field, the current regular season schedule could pose problems. The coaches discussed moving to a 20-game schedule that would ensure that each team play each other at least once.

"Everybody wants to play everybody. We can't have no-plays," said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey. "We've got to figure out a way to do this. We're going to figure this all out together." (Credit: Andy Katz, ESPN)


Another topic that was heavily reviewed this week in Ponte Vedra was the future of the Big East Tournament. As of early March, the conference and Madison Square Garden were close to a 10-year extension of the current contract, which would keep the prestigious tournament away from a possible relocation.

With realignment and expansion to an 18-team league (which could extend to 20 before 2013), the existing format is sure to change. The coaches have agreed that they would like to see each Big East member receive admittance into the league's tournament every March, but this may force the games to begin on Monday instead of Tuesday making the schedule an astounding six days.

Since the contract only allows the Big East access to the Garden beginning on Tuesday, a possible Monday start could lead to two play-in games played at a nearby location. With its renovation project, the Garden's event schedule may not be flexible enough to host an additional day of games.


The future of the Big East is still in question. Much of the unwillingness to make key decisions rests on the timetable of seeing how things play out in other conferences. The Big 12 still has interest in adding Louisville and/or Notre Dame to its existing 10-program landscape.

No, the Big East may not be as powerful as it once was. But Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey isn't too worried. He mentioned that Notre Dame has 'contingency plans' in place to join other conferences if the Big East ultimately falls apart.

"I'll say this: if it doesn't work out [in the Big East], everybody's got a spot for us [in another league]," Brey mentioned. "I hope we keep our spot here. But whatever happens, we're going to land on our feet. I guarantee that." (Credit: Brett McMurphy, CBS Sports).

The conference is also still searching for a permanent commissioner to take over for John Marinatto, who resigned in early May. Joe Bailey made clear that his position is only temporary and transitional, while the national search could last close to three months.

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