AAC Partners With ESPN, CBS
By Bill Gelman
The Big East Conference is preparing to make its official transition to the American Athletic Conference on July 1. The new league website, www.TheAmerican.org, includes an image of the new logo that feature a large "A" with a star in the middle.
The Big East name will still exist in the college basketball world as the conference's "Catholic 7" members are splitting off to form a basketball-only league.
But with the start of college football season fast approaching, the league executives are busy putting all of the components in place for the smooth transition. The conference presidents, athletic directors, coaches and administrators held a meeting in Ponte Verdra, Fla., last month to discuss a number of key issues ranging from locations for the men's and women's basketball tournaments to meeting with television partners to discuss scheduling and promotional plans.
Like the Big East days, The American will get its share of national exposure thanks to new pacts with ESPN and CBS. Published reports have the seven-year deal valued at $126 million. and it includes having the conference's championship game carried by either ABC or ESPN. Besides the large financial package, the agreement will provide the league with the national stage it needs to market its name and image. The Big East, which was around for 34 years, is going to be a tough one to forget.
I figure, even with all of the exposure on ESPN and CBS, it's going to take a few seasons for The American to really establish itself as one of the nation's top conferences thanks to a multi-season membership transition. University of Central Florida, Southern Methodist, Memphis and Houston are all becoming full-fledged members as of July 1. East Carolina, Tulsa and Tulane are coming in July 1, 2014, and Navy is slated to join as a football-only member the following summer. The end result will be a 12-team conference as Pittsburgh and Syracuse are exiting as of June 30 while Rutgers and Louisville are scheduled to depart next year.
In terms of this season, weekly coverage is scheduled to begin in October with the Oct. 10 Louisville/Rutgers game followed a day later by the Temple/Cincinnati contest.