New Vision for Big East

It's pretty obvious Mike Aresco paid no attention to the gloom-and-doom forecasts for the Big East Conference that dominated the headlines over the past year. The new commissioner of the Big East was formally introduced Tuesday and repeatedly stated his vision for a stable, united, national state-of-the-art conference.

The events of the past three days have already started to change the perception of the Big East. At the heart of that change is Aresco, who will leave his job as executive vice president of CBS Sports in early September with the hope of saving and strengthening the Big East.

Realignment got the Big East into a mess. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia have been lost. TCU never made it to the new-member line. In response, the Big East presidents decided to expand and by 2014 the football conference will include Boise State and San Diego State, stretching the Big East far to the west.

"I think you approach realignment with the idea that you strengthen your conference," Aresco said Wednesday during his first news conference, held in New York. "You make it a place people want to be. You make it a place where people who have left would rather have been back there. You make sure that there is a consensus among the schools."

Aresco also held a teleconference with media to answer questions about the conference's future. He said he plans a strategic review of the conference. He said the top priorities are the negotiation of a new television contract, a process that begins Sept. 1, and establishing a tie-in to an elite bowl game.

And he said much more. Following are some highlights from that media teleconference.

On his TV knowledge helping to land a more lucrative TV deal.

"I look forward to working with the networks and the outstanding staff at the Big East. Working in television, I've been involved in many, many negotiations. I hope it is an important factor in concluding a negotiation favorable to the Big East. I look forward to the negotiations coming up."

Can the Big East get close to what the ACC got in terms of TV revenue?

"I'm not got to speculate on that. I'm not going to set any benchmarks. I do think at the end of the day, the value of the Big East Conference will, by the media entities, be recognized and ultimately be maximized. But I don't want to make any predictions."

What about the Big East job appealed to you?

"I think it's a great opportunity. I did not want to be on the sidelines when this conference, having again reconstituted itself and having made itself stronger, was forging a bright future. I did not want to be on the sidelines. I have a deep affection for college sports and for the Big East Conference. I have deep ties with the college community. . . . I feel I am leaving a good legacy at CBS. But this is a new opportunity and a new personal challenge and I really embrace it.

How much of your belief in the future of the Big East has to be transmitted to the current membership?

"I think the current membership understands that they are stronger. I don't think I need to transmit that to the current membership. What I need to do is make sure the current membership feels I am a tireless, tireless proponent of the conference. That I am telling the conference's story well and effectively and well. This conference is very excited to move forward. I would not have taken this job if I didn't feel confident that this conference was cohesive, or that the teams are committed to each other."

How will the Big East's future "nationwide" scope help with TV negotiations?

"I think it's extremely valuable. The fact now that the conference does span all the time zones only makes it stronger. In most cases, the Big East has teams in major media markets. What happens when you have a national conference is that you generate media interest in different places, which accumulates and you get national recognition. The fact that the Big East has a national footprint is going to be extremely valuable going forward."

What's the biggest challenge before you and do you expect movement in or out of the conference in the next year?

"I don't anticipate any movement. Obviously the TV rights must be negotiated in the next several months. That's job one. It's extremely important to the future of the conference and it's important to the financial stability of the conference. I said earlier I wanted to make this a state of the art conference. We're going to look at all the conference operations. I want this conference to be a leader, not only on the field and on the court but also in the classroom and in respect to NCAA legislation. I want the Big East to be on the cutting edge.

There was talk at Big East football media day of doing innovative, out-of-the-box things. You've mentioned a state of the art conference and using different platforms. Can you share any ideas?

"I don't have anything specific at this point. But I do know we're going to look at everything to make sure we have the broadest possible exposure, cutting edge exposure. Social media is becoming more and more important. But in terms of how we present our events and games, I'll look at everything out there. I want to continue to emphasize we are a national conference. The Big East has outstanding product and great tradition. We want to maintain our tradition but we also want to be cutting edge. I can't wait to get started."

Would you consider a model such as the Big Ten Network?

"I think the Big East should look at everything. I don't think anything should be off the table at this point. It's a very complex media landscape."

One of the unique challenges of this conference has always been the diversity of the membership. Is it still possible to achieve the agendas of the so-called basketball schools and football schools?

"Absolutely it is. They share a common vision. They share a commitment to the best athletic competition and the best classroom performance. I think it's very important that the basketball and football schools stay together. They want to stay together. It's very clear they've committed to each other and each makes the other stronger. Obviously it's a diverse and complex conference. But in that complexity is a great deal of strength."

What is your view of Notre Dame and the importance of keeping the Irish in the conference?

"Notre Dame is a valuable member in basketball and others sports. Notre Dame is one of the great universities in America and I'm proud to have them in the Big East. I'll do everything I can to make them feel as comfortable in the Big East as they can possibly be."

What about the national perception that the Big East is not among the elite conferences, and that there is now an Elite Five?

"I believe the Big East is an elite conference. I'm not fazed by any of that. The Big East deserves to be one of the "big six." I want people to notice. And I want people to recognize that this conference has reconstituted itself, when you look at the institutions that have been added and the quality in football, the markets they are in and the possibilities of competition. . . . In the end, the Big East has to perform on the field and on the court."

Is the Big East is in position to be in the same revenue ballpark as the other five conferences?

"That's our goal. I can't speculate on how things will turn out. But that's absolutely our goal."

Both the press conference and teleconference are available in their entirety at BIGEAST.TV – On Demand.

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