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Chuck Landon: No pot of gold at end of Big East rainbow

Feb. 11, 2013 @ 11:40 PM

Tell me again how the defection of six Conference USA members to the Big East was a prestigious move.

Tell me again how the decision by UCF, Memphis, Houston, SMU, Tulane and East Carolina to leave C-USA and join the Big East was a major upgrade.

Tell me again how the departures were about seeking greener pastures, as in "long green."

All that posturing was exposed as empty rhetoric when ESPN.com revealed the Big East's likely new television contract on Monday.

NBC Sports Network has given the Big East a verbal offer of between $20 million and $23 million per year for six years, according to ESPN.com. The network is expected to make an official offer by next week. Then, ESPN, which holds the Big East's current television rights, will have a chance to match the offer.

If that happens, ESPN's offer will be in the same $20-23 million window.

Now, here's the crux of the matter.

NBC Sports Network's verbal offer would yield the six C-USA defectors along with the University of Cincinnati, UConn, South Florida, Temple and, perhaps, Navy, about $2 million in revenue annually.

Only $2 million.

So much for all the pie-in-the-sky promises of much more lucrative annual revenues than C-USA could offer its members.

That $2 million figure is a significant decrease from the $3.12 million each Big East member received in 2012. And it's a far cry from the $13.8 million per member annual revenue that ESPN offered, but the Big East presidents turned down in April 2011.

The Big East arrogantly believed a new television deal would be a cash cow and the six C-USA defectors swallowed the ridiculous premise as if it were cream.

Sorry, renegades, it was just 2 percent.

So, again, this move is prestigious, a major upgrade and a path to greener pastures?

I don't think so.

Just do the math.

In 2012, the six defectors along with Marshall, Southern Miss, UAB, Tulsa, Rice and UTEP received $1.17 million each in revenue from C-USA's 5-year, $35 million agreement with CBS College Sports and its 5-year, $35 million pact with Fox. The dual contract is worth $14 million annually.

That means UCF, Memphis, East Carolina, SMU, Houston and Tulane each will reap a scant $830,000 more annually in the Big East than it earned last year in C-USA.

That is little more than chump change in the television industry.

Even more ludicrous is the fact the six defectors each have to ante up $7 million in exit fees to C-USA along with a reported $1.5 million in entrance fees to join the Big East.

It's going to take a while to make up that $8.5 million at the rate of only $830,000 per year.

Is it any wonder Marshall, Southern Miss, UAB, Rice and UTEP are laughing up their sleeves right about now? And what about Tulsa? Will this take the wind out of the Golden Hurricane's plans to join the stampede to the Big East?

Talk about a cold splash of reality right in the face. Not to mention all the smug I-told-you-so's.

The bottom line is the Big East, C-USA and the Mountain West comprises the second tier of Football Bowl Subdivision schools. And all three are on a par.

So, as the six defectors slink away to a league that probably won't even get to keep its name, I offer this subtle summary.

As lateral moves go, this is a shovel pass at best.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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