I'm not arguing that the Big East hasn't been better than the Big Ten in basketball. I agree that, at least in terms of producing top national championship contenders, the Big East has certainly been ahead of the Big Ten in that regard over the past few years (although I think in terms of depth from top to bottom it's a lot closer).
What I am arguing, however, is that the Big Ten has the largest fan base overall for both football and basketball of any conference in the country, which made it the top candidate to create its own national network.
As I stated previously, the Big East having all of its games on "one of the ESPN networks" is exactly what the Big Ten before. That doesn't mean that the Big East is having all of its conference games televised nationally on ESPN or ESPN2 - all it means is that there will be some games on ESPN/ESPN2 and then the rest will be shown over local syndication via ESPN Plus. That is what the Big East will be having. This is also exactly what the Big Ten has had for years.
Are you sure about that? I've been watching ESPN Plus for the last three years and I honestly cannot remember having the opportunity to watch every single Big 10 Penn State game on ESPN Plus. And after my Orange, the two teams I follow are Notre Dame and Penn State. (Call me foolish, but I still hold out a small flicker of hope for a northeastern all-sports conference with both those teams as members.)
At best, I would say Penn State Big 10 games are on ESPN Plus about half the time, usually when they face MSU, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin. And the only time I can recall them making ESPN2 was against Pitt a few years back.
The Big Ten is now going to have at least 60 games a year on either ESPN or ESPN2, which is up from around 40. CBS also continues to show at least one Big Ten game a week, just like the Big East. At the same time, all of those games that used to be just shown on local stations through ESPN Plus will now be nationally televised on the Big Ten Channel. That means that the Big Ten will be the only conference to have all of its football and basketball games on national television.
Well, we'll have to wait and see if the Big 10 Channel is a success before you can call it "national". But if any conference can pull this off - it is the Big 10 - mainly because of their success in both major revenue generating sports - a success rate much higher in football perception than basketball perception.
Let's face it. For the most part, the casual national fan is not drawn to the Big 10 in basketball (and the ratings numbers show this) because they play a slow, dull style.
All I'm saying is that the Big Ten fan base is bigger which makes the TV network a potential boon.
The Alumni base is bigger and the football fans are far more numerous, but theBig 10 ratings for basketball don't show great numbers - solid, but certainly not spectacular - especially in comparison with the Big East and the ACC.
The other cool thing about the Big 10 network is the ability to show classic games from the past. But even here, football will dominate over basketball. Check out the ESPN Classic basektball vault and you will see far more Big East and ACC games from the 80s than Big 10 games.
In contrast, every single Big Ten school is going to be making at least $14 million each from ABC/ESPN and the Big Ten Channel alone, and that doesn't even include the separate contract with CBS for basketball.
The current CBS/ESPN/JP Sports football contract with the SEC is the largest at $50 million. The Big 10's ABC/ESPN contract is currently at $42 million. The current Raycom/JP Sports ACC basketball contract is the largest current bb contract at just under $30 million. The current Big 10 bb contract is half that amount at $15 million.
If one were to combine the two best contracts of both sports - the SEC's football contract with the ACC's bb contract, each team would be getting 6.6 million for the combined TV contracts. Don't know who fed you that 14 million each, but that simply isn't happening.
Why is this? Other than Northwestern, the conference is composed of huge state flagship schools that have alums that are well dispersed throughout the country as compared to the other BCS conferences. The Big East has a larger number of smaller private schools and their alums don't stretch much farther past their immediate markets on the East Coast and Midwest.
Ultimately, all that matters in terms of television and advertisers are DMAs and ratings. The DMAs of the Big 10 are nice, but pale in comparison with the Big East or even the ACC. The Big 10's ratings for football are great, but for basketball are behind both the Big East and the ACC. Here are the facts from the past season:
Regular Season: CBS/ESPN
Duke vs. Georgetown - highest rated regular season game on CBS.
Connecticut vs. Louisville - highest rated regular season conference game on CBS.
Villanova vs. Connecticut - highest rated Sunday afternoon regular season game.
Connecticut vs. Villanova - highest rated weeknight game on ESPN
Connecticut vs. Louisville - highest rated GameDay game in the short two-year history of College Basketball GameDay. - Another interesting fact here is that in the short 2 year history of GameDay for basketball, no Big Ten match-up has been featured yet whereas there have been 4 Big East match-ups already. I think that might be very telling.
Big East tournament/ESPN:
Syracuse vs. Connecticut, highest rated quarter-final game ever - with a noon kick-off no less.
Syracuse vs. Georgetown, highest rated semi-final game since 1996 (article did not say what match-up beat it out in 1996)
Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh, highest rated conference final since the ACC 1998 title game Duke vs. UNC when they were rated #1 and #2 in the nation at the time.
Also, the numbers on ESPN for the Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh final were only 0.1 ratings point down from the highest rated Sunday Conference Tourney Final on CBS that weekend - which usually always gets a half to a full rating point higher number than the ESPN finals on Saturday due to the build-up and tie-in to Selection Sunday.
None of the above is meant to disparage the Big 10 (well except for the dull style of basketball they play). But believe me, the Big East and the ACC trump the Big 10 in basketball and the SEC trumps the Big 10 in football. But without a doubt, the Big 10 has the best combination of the two.
The college sports community anxiously awaits how successful the Big 10 will be with this new venture of theirs. And when it comes to sports, this is probably a first for the Big 10 - being ahead of the curve instead of 10 years behind it.