The first Big East season in its new era wrapped up on Saturday, with Providence defeating Creighton to win the tournament's championship and automatically qualify for the NCAA Tourney. It also wrapped up Fox Sports 1's college basketball coverage for the year, which primarily featured the revamped conference, along with the occasional Pac-12, Big 12 and Conference USA action. The results were less than impressive.
While with 112 broadcasts the average isn't liable to be massive, Fox Sports 1 could only average a mere 95,000 viewers for Big East games this season, not including the tourney. As a comparison, ESPN's family of networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU) broadcast 56 American Athletic Conference games this season, averaging 293,000 viewers. The AAC is the conference the remaining, non-Catholic Big East schools joined after the split of the main conference a year ago.
That said, things aren't dire. Villanova aside, this was considered somewhat of a down year for the Big East's schools, with only the Wildcats among the three Big East teams in major TV markets (St. John's [and technically Seton Hall] in New York, Georgetown in DC) making the Big Dance. The schools set a low bar that can likely be easily cleared next season. Plus, the American's numbers will likely be hampered by Rutgers and Louisville's exits after this season.
You'd still like to see the conference perform a little better, but realistically, it's not the end of the world. Fox had Gus Johnson, Bill Raftery, and Erin Andrews working the Big East tournament, which is an all-star crew for the network. Also, it has to be considered that many of the highest profile teams that would be the most reliable ratings draws are no longer a part of the Big East conference. Louisville-UConn is going to draw a lot higher number than Creighton-Providence nationally.
The network is full service in terms of broadcasting the league's events, so you have to take Seton Hall's games against mid-major teams in November and combine them with huge out-of-conference showdowns (Michigan State-Georgetown, the season's highest rated FS1 game, which drew 539,000 viewers) you're going to get a low figure. Still, you must think they'll want to beat that in 2014-15.