The Big East and ESPN have decided to stick together after all.
ESPN will retain the television rights to the conference's games after matching an offer from NBC Sports Network. Big East presidents still must approve the deal but that is believed to be a formality. Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco issued a statement Saturday.
"ESPN has matched the third-party offer that the Big East Conference received, and, subject to the Big East board approval, ESPN and the Big East will continue, for years to come, their long-term relationship, which began in 1979," Aresco said.
ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys posted on Twitter: ''ESPN has matched an offer for the Big East and we look forward to continuing our relationship.''
ESPN.com reported the deal is for seven years and worth $130 million through the 2019-20 school year. But, according to that report, the new deal is worth less per school than its current ESPN deal and six times less than what ESPN presented two years ago.
Conference officials said the Big East presidents will vote next week, possibly as early as Monday.
Since the Big East turned down ESPN's $1.17 billion offer two years ago, conference realignment has resulted in 16 schools either leaving or announcing they are leaving the Big East.
Connecticut has publicly sought membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference but remains one of the charter members of the Big East.
Sources told ESPN.com CBS also will extend its men's basketball rights with the Big East, paying the league about an additional $2 million annually.
That will bring the Big East's total media rights value to about $22 million annually, starting in 2014 and, based on a 12-team league, worth about $1.8 million per school annually.