Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
The Atlantic 10 Conference’s new television deal will bring the member schools nearly double the amount of televised games, exposure in new markets and broadcasts on three major sports channels (ESPN, CBS Sports and NBC Sports).
The 146 Atlantic 10 men’s games to be televised each season will mean, according to the league’s press release, that 33 percent of all American homes will get Atlantic 10 basketball on their television sets beginning in 2012-13. That ability to showcase what’s widely recognized as the best basketball-driven conference in the country is just one major drawing point of the new deal.
“Any chance that we get to present the new and more challenging Atlantic 10, I’ll line up and say ‘amen’ in that church,” St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli told CoBL by phone on Wednesday. ““I think that the basketball people who are really engaged in the basketball world are going to…see competition that will not take a backseat to any competition, any rivalry game, anywhere in this country.”
The eight-year deal, which kicks in next year (although NBC Sports Network will show six games this season), comes a few months after the league added new members Virginia Commonwealth and Butler following the losses of Temple (Big East) and Charlotte (C-USA) after this season. League commissioner Bernadette McGlade, whose first four years of leadership in the conference were relatively uneventful, has now brought in two programs that have made it to the Final Four within the last three years and announced this deal, all in the span of a few months.
“My tremendous belief in the league administrators has been further solidified by this all-encompassing deal,” Martelli said.
“I think everyone’s going to be extremely excited about it,” La Salle head coach John Giannini said on Tuesday. “I know there was some frustration among fans with the last television deal. I think that the coaches wanted more, too, so I think this is just great news. It doesn’t surprise me, the league has been doing great. We’ve added some national names that I think TV is very interested in.”
One area that the TV contract should help in is recruiting, as the member schools’ brand names get more recognition on a more regular basis.
“I think TV may be the most important thing in recruiting,” Giannini said. “I think the reason several leagues have become household names and the leagues that top recruits wanna go to them is because they watch them on TV all the time.”
“I’ll be honest with you…I think that’s overrated,” Martelli said about the effect that television has on recruiting. “Anybody that thinks that young people pay attention to television packages, that’s not entirely true.”
So, maybe the effect that the new deal will have on recruiting is still to be determined. The Explorers coach thinks the league’s direction could have it following a current BCS conference.
“I’m still old enough where I remember the beginning of the Big East,” said Giannini, who was still a teenager when the Big East was founded in 1979. “I mean, TV made the Big East. I think that the more recruits see you on TV, the more they like you and the more interested they are.”
It has been 32 years since that date, however, and to the Hawks head coach–the longest-tenured active coach in the league, entering his 18th season–the recruiting game has changed.
“Recruiting has become self-centered,” Martelli said, “and they wanna know how soon they’ll play and how much they’ll play and how many shots they’ll be able to take early in their careers.”
“Every kid in America thinks that every game is on television, so it’s not something that’s discussed very more in recruiting. Can’t remember the last time I was asked about ‘how many times will I be on TV?’”
Though he might not hear the question often, Martelli will now be able to give an answer: quite a lot.