Big East to give ESPN chance to match offer

Friday February 15th, 2013

The UConn-Syracuse Big East rivalry ended Wednesday night after 33 years.
David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports

There's a chance the Big East and ESPN will stick together. Thursday, the Big East was scheduled to present ESPN the terms of its potential contract with NBC Sports, according to a source.

ESPN will have a chance to match NBC Sports' offer, which a source confirmed is between $20 and $23 million per year for six years. ESPN is the current Big East rights holder and has the contractual option to match any offer that the league gets.

This allows ESPN a chance to stock up live programming inventory at a cheap rate and keep it off the air of one of its competitors. ESPN has seven days to respond to the terms the Big East presented it with.

The Big East has been decimated by defections the past two years, losing marquee schools West Virginia, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Rutgers. Nearly two years ago, the league turned down an offer from ESPN worth more than four times as much money.

Seven of the league's Catholic schools also left, greatly reducing the value of the league's basketball rights. Those schools have broken off to form their own league, which has long been locked in with Fox for a television deal. That deal is expected to be worth nearly $3 million per school annually, which would be more than the current Big East schools would be making under the new deal.

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