Aresco Takes Over Big East Commissioner’s Job as TV Talks Near

The Big East Conference hired CBS Sports executive Mike Aresco as its commissioner ahead of television contract talks.

The CBS executive vice president of programming, Aresco was the unanimous choice of the league’s university presidents, according to yesterday’s statement on the Big East website.

Aresco, 62, has been with CBS since 1996 and was responsible for college programming at CBS Sports and the CBS College Sports Network. He also managed the division’s college sports properties, including negotiating contracts for the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

“We had many outstanding candidates, but we are fortunate to have Mike Aresco as our new commissioner,” University of Cincinnati President Greg Williams, who headed the search committee, said in the statement. “His breadth of experience and depth of knowledge in intercollegiate athletics will continue to move the Big East forward on a successful path.”

The Big East enters negotiations with Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN on a new television contract Sept. 1 and needed an executive with media experience to replace former commissioner John Marinatto, who resigned last spring. Joe Bailey has filled the job on an interim basis.

Multi-Part Hiring

Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, said Aresco was “uniquely qualified” for the job and that it would be “short-sighted” to assume the hiring was based solely on the television negotiations.

Aresco has spent more than three decades developing relations with “everyone from conference commissioners to athletic directors and coaches,” McManus said in a telephone interview.

“He understands what drives TV, certainly, and that’s an important part of the Big East’s future, and I’m sure he’ll increase revenue a lot,” McManus said. “But he was hired to figure out strategically what the conference needs to do over the long run to grow and retain teams and add teams and how they can strengthen those relationships.”

The conference, based in Providence, Rhode Island, is losing members including founder Syracuse University and gaining schools such as Temple University and the U.S. Naval Academy as college sports ranks are shuffled in a search for the most lucrative league lineups. The Big East will have eight schools in football’s top tier this season.

The conference is seeking to at least double revenue in its next television contract, Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti said this year without disclosing a dollar figure. The Big East rejected a $155 million annual deal with ESPN last year.

Negotiating Help

The Big East also hired Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures as the lead negotiator in its television negotiations, the conference said in a statement.

Co-founder Chris Bevilacqua led the media negotiations for the Rose Bowl game this year and for the Pac-12 Conference, which will be launching its own 24-hour network.

Prior to forming Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures with partner Adam Helfant, Bevilacqua was chairman and chief executive officer of Creative Artists Agency’s Sports Media Ventures. Before that, he founded CSTV, the first 24-hour cable television network dedicated to college and amateur sports, which was later bought by CBS and turned into the CBS Sports Network.

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