Big John Marinatto Talks Big East Expansion, TV Deal & More

It's Big East spring meeting time and that means one thing and one thing only. Commissioner John Marinatto is talking publicly in vague and non-committed terms. Buckle up and get comfy.

The two major issues facing the conference right now are football school expansion and a new TV deal. We expected the two issues to be linked in a few ways, but apparently they're even more linked than we initially assumed.

Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said the league needs to get its expansion plans settled by September 2012 when it begins television contract negotiations.

The Big East current has a television contract with ESPN that expires at the conclusion of the 2012-13 academic year. Marinatto said the Big East will begin a 60-day exclusive negotiation period with ESPN in September 2012.

So, while the Big East has put off the Villanova expansion issue on hold, it's basically given itself a do-or-die deadline. The conference needs to go into those negotiations guns blazing. The potential for mega-bucks, way beyond the reported $110 million to $130 million annually that ESPN was offering, is there. The Boys From Providence know that they've got some leverage in the fact ESPN isn't the only game in town anymore. But that leverage only works when you can back it up with as many households, as much coverage and as many eyeballs as possible.

CBSSportscom says the Big East nearly committed to that new deal with ESPN just as the Pac-12 was getting its sweetheart deal. By holding off, the Big East now has two years to prove why its an even better investment, which in theory, it should be able to do. Major East Coast markets, the best basketball in the nation and hopefully-better football trumps West Coast markets, really good football and abysmal basketball.

Big East fans have scratched their heads (and continue to) about Marinatto and his decisions (or lack-thereof). But he can go a long way towards winning back goodwill across the conference if he pulls this off. He at least seems to think he can.

"So 17 months from now, when we have the opportunity to sit down initially with ESPN, as part of the [existing] contract's requirements, and then potentially beyond that if we don't come to conclusion, I think we look at a very, very aggressive and potentially very strong future in terms as far as media market rights. That's one of the things we're preparing for now."

Those were the big issues of the day, but what about the idea of paying players? The Big Ten is kicking the idea around. Would the Big East consider it as well? Does John Marinatto have anything vague and media-proof to say on the issue?

"There’s a lot of discussion among all the conferences as to whether or not the current model that defines scholarship as being scholarship, room and board should be adjusted," Marinatto said Monday. "We haven’t had that discussion, but we’re open-minded about all of that because that’s something moving forward the NCAA also wants to explore. We’ve not had any in-depth discussions about it to this point, so it’s hard to define a position."

It's truly an art-form to turn the word "no" into all of that.

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