Conference Realignment–ACC Needs to be Wary of History Repeating Itself
Frank the Tank has a new entry for your perusal. In this latest blog entry, the opinion is that Fox, rather than ESPN, is responsible for the demise of the Big East. The Confidential disagrees. Moreover, the Confidential cannot help but think that the ACC needs to be very wary of the destruction of the Big East to prevent, to the extent possible, the demise of our great conference.
As a preliminary matter, there is no doubt that Fox’s entry into the sports networking landscape has been a contributing factor. If nothing else, the partnership with the Big 10 has dramatically altered the college sports landscape. Fox’s role in conference realignment is obvious.
But the demise of the Big East began long before the loss of Rutgers, Maryland/Louisville, Notre Dame, and the Catholic-7. Rather, the demise began with the loss of Pittsburgh and Syracuse. And, really, the loss of Pittsburgh and Syracuse began with the inability of ESPN and the Big East to negotiate a restructured deal. While ESPN was willing to ride the Longhorn Network into town to save the Big XII, ESPN did not bother to do anything to save the Big East from demise. Rather, it allowed (directed?) it’s partner, the ACC, to take two of the Big East’s most valuable properties–Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Even if Fox was behind every other move that decimated the Big East (see West Virginia, TCU, Maryland, and Rutgers), the reality is that ESPN never stepped up to the plate to save the Big East.
As ESPN continues to lose the rights to major college programs, one wonders if ESPN is going to go the route of MTV. Once, MTV showed videos… with an occasional non-video show sprinkled in. At some point, MTV stopped showing videos. And it’s been decades since this author has cared about MTV. Every pass through revealed less about “music” and more about reality TV. Presumably, MTV is still profitable and pleasing to its owners. Is ESPN going to follow suit and devote more resources to news & shows where reporters yell at each other? It certainly runs contrary to the prevailing logic that live sports are among the best television products out there because people cannot fast forward through the commercials.
In any event, the question that begs is whether ESPN will step up to the plate to “save the ACC.” ESPN helped save the Big XII. But, with every program that moves from the ACC to the Big XII or Big 10, ESPN will lose the exclusive rights to that school. And one wonders whether Fox will be content to allow ESPN to share in the Big XII and Big 10. If this is a business battle between Fox and ESPN, Fox seems to be winning. The Big East was “collateral damage” in that battle. The ACC needs to ensure that ESPN does not view the ACC as collateral damage. It is unclear exactly what the ACC can do… but at least being wary of ESPN and history repeating itself is a very small step one.
What do YOU think? Is ESPN working for or against the ACC these days?