Big East Expansion Round-Up: PPL Park Expansion and TV Contracts

Its been a boring month expansion wise in the Big East. The May 31st self-imposed deadline for Villanova joining the Big East passed with no 11th hour deals. Now the conference must wait until 2015 at the earliest if the Wildcats were to move up for football.

There was big news out of Philadelphia earlier this month, and it might help push Villanova's bid to FBS over the top. Jeff Gammage of the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that the Philadelphia Union will start a 3-tier expansion on PPL Park tentatively slated to begin in 2014. The expansion will push the total capacity of PPL up to 30,000, but the exact date of the 2nd or 3rd stage of expansion has not been set.

The news obviously was well welcomed by Villanova fans, who have been searching for news like this for the better part of 18 months. Even though Villanova wasn't directly mentioned in the Inquirer article, Chris from The Nova Blog is excited about the news,

While many will point to Villanova's interest as one of the main reasons for the increase, it should be noted that the Union are one of the best selling teams in Major League Soccer, so the increase totally makes sense for them too - and gives Villanova a leg to stand on if they were to split the cost of the increase, which is estimated at around $25 million today.

Brian Ewart from VUHoops was also pleased with the news, especially when it comes to the financial costs with PPL's expansion,

This means that any negotiation or discussions that Villanova is having or has had with regarding expansion have likely not faced as much push-back as many fans had feared. It also means that Villanova would not likely have to pay the entire cost of an expansion.

But Ewart also correctly points out that Villanova isn't rushing into a lease with the Union when the conference hasn't extended an invitation yet. But if one comes, the expansion to 30,000 might come sooner than planned,

However, with no commitment from the Big East conference, Villanova has little reason to sign on for what would be an expensive lease deal including commitments related to an expansion project at PPL Park just yet. Should the Big East conference make that commitment to Villanova football, it is likely that the first phase of the expansion would have to begin sooner than 2014.

Throw in Louisville AD Tom Jurich publicly backing Villanova's bid this month, and we might finally see the Wildcats start the slow climb up.

While most think Villanova is the first option for expansion, some within the Big East still think Army and Navy are the way to go according to Brett McMurphy. Yes, that Army and Navy who both said they weren't interested and prompted Toro to say goodbye to DePaul when the Big East eventually splits.

More after the jump.

The only other bit of Big East news that everyone talks about but won't come into effect for a few years is the TV contract. John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal wonders if the Big East should have accepted the proposed deal ESPN offered earlier this year in case the media rights bubble bursts and the Big East is left with nothing when it is time to renew next year.

It's amazing to read how close the Big East was from accepting a 9 year/1 billion dollar extension with ESPN for all sports.

Presidents from Georgetown, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Seton Hall voted against the deal, sources said. Others, including Pittsburgh and West Virginia, also were vocal skeptics of the deal, preferring to wait and see what the open market would bring once ESPN’s deals ended, following the 2013-14 football season. Still, the presidents voted 12-4 to accept its broad outlines.

Four weeks later, just a week after a record-breaking deal for the Pac-10’s media rights was announced, the Big East’s presidents met again. Not surprisingly, they needed only 15 minutes to reach a unanimous decision to reject ESPN’s offer.

While it seems like a lot, it would have only been about 110 million dollars a year. If that number sounds familiar, its the annual amount that was thrown out when a media rights deal was first talked about.

One interesting thing that I did not know about the contract situation is that the football and basketball contracts don't end simultaneously. From McMurphy,

Here's something else to consider when the Big East begins negotiating its media-rights deal, the league's current football and basketball deals are not "synced up." The basketball contract expires after the 2012-13 school year, the football contract after the 2013-14 school year.

"It's a complicating factor," a source said. "It's not a clean situation."

Having their media rights deal finish on different years sounds like the most Big East thing the guys in Providence could do. How does this happen? Wouldn't you make a call to make sure that both contracts ended at the same time?

As much as I fear Marinatto and the rest of the Big East leaders screwing this up, Chaz at Pitt Blather calms my nerves. At least a little bit,

The Big East isn’t taking a big risk in waiting. The worst case scenario at this point is just getting ACC money at this point.

One can only hope.

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