An update to this post, Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo has written a letter of apology to ACC presidents and ADs, saying he "spoke inappropriately and erroneously regarding ESPN’s role in conference expansion."
Here's an Associated Press story on the letter.
Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo told the Boston Globe quite the contrary.
“We always keep our television partners close to us,’’ DeFilippo said in a Globe story published Sunday. “You don’t get extra money for basketball. It’s 85 percent football money. TV, ESPN, is the one who told us what to do.’’
ESPN and the ACC last year agreed to a 12-year partnership that more than doubles each school’s annual share of television revenue to approximately $13 million. That contract will be renegotiated in the wake of the conference’s expansion.
But Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage and his Virginia Tech colleague, Jim Weaver, said that to their knowledge the network did not dictate or shape any expansion decision.
“That was very curious,” Littlepage said of DeFilippo’s comment. “I was never aware of any influence, comment, anything concerning ESPN. … I never heard anything to the effect that they were influencing a decision about expansion.”
Weaver said he had not read the Globe story.
“I don’t know where that’s coming from,” he added. “I don’t know what Gene is stating. But I never heard of any ESPN input or pressure to take anyone whatsoever.
“I’m of the opinion the conference did an outstanding job in the process. Everyone on the respective committees, the 4-4-4 committee, the presidents’ committee. I thought the ADs communicated well with the presidents and conference office.
“Maybe there was some input from ESPN that I don’t happen to know about.”
DeFilippo was part of the 4-4-4 expansion panel, which included four ACC presidents, four athletic directors and four faculty representatives. Littlepage and Weaver are not.
If ESPN steered the ACC toward Syracuse and Pittsburgh, Big East members whose departures damage that conference, the conflict of interest is immeasurable. The Big East last year turned down a rights deal with ESPN that would have nearly doubled the annual payout to each school from $6 million to more than $11 million.
Whom to believe?
Well, ESPN is never bashful about bigfooting folks and/or flaunting its checkbook. But were the network intent on guiding ACC expansion, wouldn’t it have nudged the league toward Connecticut?
The Huskies openly pine for ACC membership, and with ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters about 45 miles from UConn’s campus, the two are cozy to say the least.
DeFilippo told the Globe that Boston College fought against UConn and for Pittsburgh to protect its New England turf, which is fine. All schools are obligated to lobby for their best interests.
Are DeFilippo’s comments about ESPN spot-on? Did he misinterpret or misstate the network’s influence?
Littlepage offered the best word. “Curious.”
Littlepage and Weaver also had plenty to say about future ACC football and basketball scheduling with 14 schools. Look for those on the blog and in print.
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