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Friday, February 15, 2013
Sources: ESPN has one week to act

By Brett McMurphy

ESPN has until Thursday to match NBC Sports Network's seven-year, $20-$23 million per year offer to retain the Big East's media rights, league sources told ESPN.

The Big East received an official offer from NBC Sports Network that will extend both the football and men's basketball media rights through the 2019-20 academic year. The amount per year varies based on any future membership changes for the Big East, sources said.

ESPN, the league's rights holder, has until Thursday to match NBC Sports Network's offer to keep the Big East's media rights. ESPN has had the Big East's basketball media rights since the conference was formed in 1979.

ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz declined comment Friday night.

The Big East's basketball media-rights deal with ESPN and CBS expires after the 2012-13 academic year, while the football deal with ESPN expires after 2013-14.

The seven-year deal would be worth between a total of $140 million to $161 million, or about $2 million per school per year. In 2011, the Big East turned down a nine-year deal from ESPN worth $1.17 billion, an average of $130 million annually. Since then, 16 schools have announced they were leaving the conference.

That proposed 2011 ESPN deal, voted down by the league's presidents, would have earned full members $13.8 million a year and non-football members $2.43 million a year.

In 2014, the Big East will be left with a 10-member conference consisting of UConn, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane and UCF. East Carolina, originally signed as a football-only member, is expected to be made a full member in 2014, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco has said.

In 2015, Navy is scheduled to join the Big East as a football-only member. Tulsa and UMass are the leading candidates to become the Big East's 12th member if the league decides to expand, sources have told ESPN.

The Big East's current six-year media-rights deal is worth $3.12 million annually for each of the eight full members and $1.5 million annually for each of the remaining non-football members.

The Big East's new $2 million per team deal is less than what the seven departing Catholic schools -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova -- are projected to earn when they form their own league, sources told ESPN. Fox Sports is closing on a deal with the Catholic schools worth about $3 million for each, sources said.

The new league, yet to be formed, is expected to have 12-to-14 members. The most likely candidates to join the Catholic schools, sources have told ESPN, are Butler, Xavier, Creighton, Dayton, Saint Louis, Richmond and VCU.