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Webs to punt Big East gridiron pacts?

ACC's gain may be Mouse neworks' ratings loss

ABC and ESPN may try to renegotiate their TV contracts with the Big East Conference because football powers Miami and Virginia Tech are leaving to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, marketing and TV consultants said.

The Disney-owned networks are scheduled to pay about $15 million per year to broadcast Big East football and basketball games through 2007.

Without Miami and Virginia Tech, though, the contract isn’t worth as much, said Jim Spence, a former vice president at ABC Sports who now runs a television consulting company. “If I had a football deal, I would make every effort to get out,” he said.

The networks, which began showing Big East football in 2001, said their contracts allow them to renegotiate if the conference makeup changes. Neither net would say whether it plans to renegotiate.

Miami, which has won five national football championships in the past 20 years, and Virginia Tech combined to win nine of the last 12 Big East football titles. Their exit leaves the league with only six schools that play at college football’s highest level: Boston College, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple and West Virginia.

“It’s a complete mess for the Big East,” said Mark Pannes, chief executive of sports marketing company Skilo Brand. “They have to find a way to get back to eight teams.”

The Big East says it may try to replace Miami and Virginia Tech with schools from other conferences. One potential target is the U. of Louisville of Conference USA.

In addition to their Big East contracts, ABC and ESPN are paying about $25 million a year to televise ACC football and basketball games.

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