- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 14, 2012

NEW YORK — The Big East on Tuesday hired CBS executive vice president Mike Aresco to be commissioner of a conference now in rebuilding mode.

Aresco has been a vice president in charge of programming for CBS since 1996. He’s handled the network’s contract negotiations with the NCAA for the rights to the men’s basketball tournament, and negotiated CBS’s 15-year deal with the Southeastern Conference.

Aresco, a Connecticut native who resides in Southport, Conn., worked for ESPN before his long run at CBS. He has never worked for a conference or university, but his experience lies in the field where the Big East needs the most help.

“He has all of the characteristics that we need in a Commissioner,” University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft said in a statement. “His career has been filled with achievement and success in intercollegiate sports. Mike Aresco knows theBig East and he has a great vision for our future.”

The conference is in the middle of a massive membership overhaul and will begin crucial negotiations on a new television contract in September. The defections of longtime members West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse cost former Commissioner John Marinatto his job earlier this year.

Joe Bailey has been interim commissioner since May.

Before Marinatto was forced out, he helped the conference add eight schools, six that are slated to join next year, but the long-term viability of the far-flung league is still in doubt.

“We did discuss it. There is some risk,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said in a telephone interview. “Obviously the conference is serious about being aggressive and protecting its brand, protecting its makeup and protecting its participants.”

McManus added: “Mike’s got his work cut out for him.”

The next commissioner will need to create stability to encourage current and future members to stick with the conference if and when leagues such as the Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference look to expand again.

The best way for the 62-year-old Aresco to do that is to help the Big East land a billion television contract that is at least in the ballpark of the ACC’s recently re-worked deal with ESPN, which will pay its members about $17 million per year starting next season and through the 2026-27 sports season.

The 14-year deal Aresco negotiated that gives CBS Sports and Turner Sports exclusive rights to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is worth $11 billion and runs through 2024.

CBS’s deal with the SEC pays the league an average of $55 million per year and runs through 2023.

Mike’s as plugged in as anybody in the business,” McManus said. “The fact that he has such experience negotiating large television contracts is an added bonus.

“It’s going to be a vigorous challenge and I think he’s up for it.”

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