Report: Big East sought $300 million annual broadcasting fee from ESPN

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany at a press conference announcing the move of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights from the Big East conference to the Big Ten conference at the Hale Center. (Patti Sapone/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports)

The Big East conference has been relegated to less than a shell of its former self with the departure of literally 14 teams from its ranks in the last two years.

But that did not stop commissioner Mike Aresco and his staff from going big — really big — in broadcasting-rights negotiations with ESPN.

As of now, it is believed that the Pac-12 has the largest TV deal with the Worldwide Leader in Sports, at a whopping $250 million annually, according to CBS Sports. The Pac-12 boasts such marketable teams as the track meet that is Oregon football, the Rose Bowl champions in Stanford, and the two Hollywood hotshots in USC and UCLA.

The Big East has suffered through the defections of West Virginia, TCU, Boise State (who, along with the Horned Frogs, left without playing a game), Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville and Rutgers — among others — and they still aimed high and asked for a staggering $300 million annually from ESPN for the rights to broadcast their football games.

Would you pay $300 million to broadcast UConn vs. Tulane football games? What about Cincy vs. Navy?

No? Neither would ESPN.

Thus, the network walked away from negotiations, and allowed a window to negotiate exclusively with the Big East for rights to their games to expire. Now, as stipulated in their current broadcasting agreement, the Big East can offer something lower, and if that it rejected as well, the conference can go ahead and negotiate with other networks.

Reports estimate that the league’s advertising value was somewhere between the $60-80 million range. Unfortunately, that was before the departure of the seven Catholic, basketball-only schools, who split away because the level of the basketball teams joining the league was embarrassingly poor.

Their decision to break away and potentially form their own, non-football league lowered the overall value of the Big East by an estimated 15- to 20-percent.

One doesn’t need a calculator to realize that the real value of the league is a far cry from $300 million.

ESPN did not need a calculator, either.

Are UConn and Cincy just going to go ahead and start their own league as well?