The Big East Conference yesterday agreed to a four-year, $19.2 million deal that will extend CBS's exclusive network coverage of the league through 1995.
The Big East deal, adjusted for inflation, is almost identical in terms of rights fees to the one-year, $1.9 million contract the Atlantic Coast Conference closed with CBS a day earlier. That deal, along with the final year of the current Big East contract, means those two conferences will comprise almost 60 percent of CBS's regular season broadcasts next season.
CBS is planning on 29 games -- meaning a possibility of 58 appearances -- before it begins exclusive coverage of the NCAA Division I men's tournament under a seven-year, $1 billion contract. The Big East has 22 appearances next season and the ACC 11, leaving a total of 25 appearances for the rest of the country. CBS negotiator Len DeLuca said the network also has one-year deals for four Louisville appearances, at least two appearances by national champion UNLV and two appearances by Notre Dame.
"This was a very pivotal 48 hours for us in college basketball because we wanted to make a foundation for the future," DeLuca said from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where the Big East is meeting. "It gives us a position of quality and strength to try and restore the CBS ratings to the fours and fives, which it has not had since the mid-eighties."
CBS, ABC and NBC all had ratings in the threes last season for college basketball, led by CBS's 3.6, according to DeLuca.
There are several new features to the Big East extension.
The number of Big East appearances will increase from 22 to 24 annually, and CBS will televise seven conference games instead of five, "because of the league's depth," DeLuca said. Also, CBS will have two wild-card games in February, when the teams are not picked until 10 to 12 days before the telecast "so we can pick up games of surprise teams, like Providence in '87, Seton Hall in '89 and Connecticut last year," DeLuca said.
CBS also will televise the semifinals and finals of the Big East tournament.
In its deal with the ACC Wednesday -- in which it won out over ABC -- CBS for the first time agreed to allow a conference's syndicator to keep rights for the tournament final in the ACC region. That, according to DeLuca, was one of the reasons the two sides agreed to a one-year contract, in addition to the NCAA sanctions that keep Maryland off live television next season.
"It was a major issue for us with the ACC and inhouse," DeLuca said. "For the rest of the country, probably 75 to 80 percent of our audience, it was the best possible national programming."
So, on the day NCAA tournament bids are announced, ACC region viewers will see the Big East Conference championship game and a to-be-announced final on CBS, while the Jefferson-Raycom syndicator shows the ACC final on WJLA-TV-7.