This much is true about Big East expansion: the conference is looking to acquire a 14th team. That’s been the case for a while. Which program will be that 14th team — or, if the Big East goes even bigger in size — is still to be determined. According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, the list of potential additions boils down to three: Air Force, Army and BYU (all as football-only members).
Who joins (or how many) could come down to what it almost always does: money. The Big East is currently in the middle of a 90-day exclusive negotiating window with ESPN regarding the conference’s new TV deal. That agreement could reportedly worth between $60 million and $130 million. Breaking it down more, that could mean between $3 million and $6.5 million for football-only members, and $4 million and $8.7 million for all-sports members.
The Big East could also look to add all three and move the conference to 16 members instead of 14 (Navy joins as the Big East’s 13th football member in 2015). It all depends on the payout the league can get it. If the Big East can’t strike a deal with ESPN by Nov. 1, it can move to negotiations with other media companies such as NBC/Comcast and FOX. Keep in mind that new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco (pictured) has a background in television from his time with CBS.
The interesting part of all of this is that Air Force, Army and BYU have all been approached by the Big East before and have all declined membership for various reasons. Air Force has pledged its allegiance to the Mountain West and BYU has an eight-year TV deal with ESPN worth $4 million a year, per McMurphy. That independent TV deal also allows BYU to keep BYUtv, which would be a negotiating hurdle if the Cougars were to join the Big East as a football-only member.
But all of that was when the Big East’s future was in flux; that’s not the case now.
With a new commissioner that’s more TV savvy, the Big East could grab a higher annual payout for its members when it expands even though the league will already have a championship game in place by the time it adds (at least) a 14th member. Will it be enough to entice one or more of the Big East’s targets to join? That’s the question.