ESPN Goes Deep With Big East

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ESPN and the Big East Conference have a new deal ensuring broader football and basketball coverage from the 16-college group beginning next season and lasting for the next six years.

“We've had a long and very robust history with each other, but today's deal is not about business as usual, it's not just a continuation of our current deal,” said John Wildhack, ESPN's senior vice president of programming, acquisitions and strategy.

Alluding to threatened departures of several schools from the Big East in 2003, Big East commissioner Michael Tranghese said: “You know, for a conference that a lot of people had dead and buried about three years ago, I think with this announcement we can hopefully put that to rest and focus on what I always consider to be the most important things, which are the games themselves.”

The likes of Syracuse, St. John's, Georgetown and Rutgers remain in the ESPN fold, unlike schools in the Big 10 and Mountain West conferences that have created their own channels.

The basketball portion of the deal translates to coverage by ESPN-owned networks of every Big East in-conference game, excluding select games aired on CBS Sports, until 2013-14.

About 40 intraconference games will air each season on either ESPN or ESPN2; 34 games will air on ESPN 360 and the 24-hour college sports network, ESPNU; and 65 games will be syndicated via ESPN Regional Television. The networks will also air interconference games involving Big East teams.

Besides bolstering ESPN's weekly Big Monday lineup, the agreement adds a new weekly slot on Thursdays on either ESPN or ESPN2.

ESPN Regional Television will retain syndication rights for all nontelevised regular-season games; ESPN Full Court gains pay-per-view rights; and archived games will become available on demand.

On the women's-basketball side, 11 regular-season appearances per year are ensured on ESPN or ESPN2, with at least three intraconference games and the Conference Championship. ESPNU will show 15 women's games each season with at least six intraconference games and the Conference Tournament semifinals.

The six-year football agreement guarantees at least 14 games on ESPN or ESPN2, including significant Thursday, Friday and Sunday coverage and games on Labor Day, Thanksgiving and select Saturdays. ESPNU will air at least five games each season, and ABC will air at least three games per year.