2:58 pm Aug. 14, 2012
Back in 1979, Dave Gavitt helped form the Big East Conference around the idea of excelling in the realm of college basketball. The idea was largely without precedent, accurately saw the upcoming boom in college basketball, and positioned the Big East to take advantage of it.
Thirty-three years later, the Big East has taken a similar leap ahead of its competition with the hiring of Mike Aresco, executive vice president of CBS Sports, as the league's new commissioner.
The move formally codifies an order of priority for the conference that would have been unthinkable to Gavitt, but is required if the league is to survive in the current climate. Television rights are foremost, specifically football television rights; basketball and everything else is secondary.
What is fascinating about the Aresco pick is that his entire background is devoid of major college sports, at least from the participatory side. He's a television executive, period. This is an unprecedented choice.
But the Big East's television deal for football is up for grabs, and exactly how much leverage the league will have in keeping its members from leaving, like Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia already have, will be dictated by how much money they can get from the new deal. In Aresco, who is intimately familiar with the television network executives who will ultimately be bidding on these rights, the league hired precisely the person best situated to maximize this haul.
It is hard to imagine what choice the league had; hiring a new commissioner skilled in anything else would have been folly, considering that without the big score football television money, there'd be no league left to run.
Ultimately, if the new football money keeps the league in place largely as it is now, the Big East can continue to be the powerhouse basketball conference Dave Gavitt envisioned. (The very early bracketology has them tied for the most potential March postseason teams, for instance.)
How they'd get there is the new, and fascinating part.