Those involved in the possible Big Ten expansion and those potentially affected by it understand what's driving the study. It also has them thinking.Personally, I never got the whole reason why other conferences hadn't been trying to do this. Sure the Big Ten beat everybody to it, but if they can pull it off, what about the football-hungry SEC? Or, yes, the basketball-hungry Big East?
"Why couldn't we do more with television, and have a Big East television network?'' Big East commissioner John Marinatto has asked.
Good question. And it's a question those in the Big East office on Thursday said probably would be studied.
"John Marinatto and Paul Tagliabue have both said it's something they are starting to explore to see what's involved,'' Mike Parsons, WVU's deputy director of athletics, said. Tagliabue, the former NFL commissioner, has been hired by the Big East as a special adviser for strategic planning.
I don't know. I'm sure some TV exec in the loop could spend an hour giving me reason after reason why it couldn't work. But one argument I've heard against it that doesn't hold water with me is that there has to be a demand for it. As a Comcast subscriber, I believe my rate went up, albeit slightly, when the Big Ten Network came out. Comcast passed that fee, or part of that fee, onto subscribers. I didn't have a say in it and I certainly don't care if I get it or not. So while there may be the customary outrage by some who wouldn't want the package, you can't tell me that it's impossible to get done if the cable networks want to genuinely do it.
Yes there was significant opposition by Comcast and others who didn't want to pay for the channel, but that passed. And now that it's been done for one, the floodgates are open. I have a hard time believing the Big Ten is more appealing to cable subscribers than SEC football.
The Big Ten covers many geographic areas across the country and obviously isn't strictly in the markets where its schools are. So the argument that the Big East has more teams, and thus more reach, doesn't necessarily hold water. But having more teams in its league can't be a bad thing.
And assuming a Big East Network could gain support in at least its own member school territories, they've got a pretty good basis to get started:
- New York
- New Jersey
- Washington, D.C.
Definitely a reasonable start there as far as getting into some nice sized markets. The real question would be if the Big East can get enough interest by the cable companies out in the western part of the U.S., or even the midwest.
I'm not sure the Big East will pull this off or even attempt to pull it off. But with the type of money out there (approx. $22 million per Big Ten school with the Big Ten Network), I think we'll be seeing other major conferences doing this fairly soon.