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Big East Commissioner Resigns Under Pressure; Humpty Dumpty Of Leagues Just Can’t Be Saved

Big East commissioner John Marinatto has resigned his post after being asked by his league’s presidents to do so.

Sidenote question: Which Big East presidents?  That league’s got more schools coming and going than I can keep up with.  Come to think of it… just how many presidents does the Big East have at the moment?

Marinatto is the Big East’s version of Dan Beebe.  He’s the scapegoat.  The Big East’s fortunes have been on the decline since the ACC began raiding the league a decade ago.  Each time the Big East lost a “name” school, it reached into a smaller conference and pulled a replacement school up the ladder.  So wobbly after Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced last summer that they would be heading the ACC, the Big East went national and added Boise State, San Diego State, Central Florida, Houston, SMU, Navy, Memphis and Temple.  Some will play football and basketball.  Some will just play football.

Laughably, the Marinatto is quoted in the league’s press release today as saying: “Our recent expansion efforts have stabilized the conference for the long term, and we are likewise well positioned for our very important upcoming television negotiations.”

Uh, yeah.

The problems are just too great to fix.  West Virginia officials saw that the college sports landscape was changing.  Six “power conferences” were about to be whittled down to five with the Big East being shaved off and swept aside.  TCU brass saw the same writing on the wall and ditched the league before ever consummating their marriage.  Both the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs landed in the Big 12 which, while shaky itself at the time, was far less shaky than Marinatto’s league.

The Big East was a basketball giant that tried to become a football league, too.  The problem was that many of the basketball schools in the Big East didn’t and don’t play FBS-level football.  The league tried and tried to get Villanova to step up in class to no avail.  So a mish-mash was created.  The basketball brand was damaged with the addition of schools.  (Seriously, can you name all 16 current basketball-playing members of the league?  I bet it’s easier for you to name the traditional Big East powers of 20 years ago.)  Worse yet, the football brand never became strong enough to bring in the kind of television dollars necessary to prevent member schools from bugging out when given the opportunity.

So Marinatto takes the fall.  Someone else will gladly replace him at a nice salary.  And that someone will fail just as Marinatto did.

The Big East is the Humpty Dumpty of leagues at this point and there’s no fitting all the mismatched football-playing, basketball-playing, East Coast, West Coast, Deep South, Midwest pieces together into a union that will truly thrive.  Example: It’s believed the league’s basketball members were behind Marinatto’s ouster, angry that they hadn’t been given enough say in the league’s overall expansion.

What once was a universe of six power conferences has become a universe of five power conferences.  That’s good news for the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC as they’ll likely have more cash to share amongst themselves.  But that’s very bad news for the Big East because being inside of the velvet rope is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  And the Big East is no longer inside that velvet rope.


As a public service, here’s what the Big East is expected to look like in 2015:

Boise State (football only), Central Florida (football and basketball), Cincinnati (football and basketball), Connecticut (football and basketball), DePaul (basketball only), Georgetown (basketball only), Houston (football and basketball), Louisville (football and basketball), Marquette (basketball only), Memphis (football and basketball), Navy (football only), Notre Dame (basketball only), Providence (basketball only), Rutgers (football and basketball), St. John’s (basketball only), San Diego State (football only), Seton Hall (basketball only), SMU (football and basketball), South Florida (football and basketball), Temple (football and basketball), and Villanova (basketball only).

I’m pretty sure that list appears beside the word “unwieldy” in the latest Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.

Additionally, Louisville and Cincinnati are — in my view — likely to eventually land in the Big 12.  Notre Dame is coveted by the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12.  The ACC and Big Ten have been mentioned as possible landing spots for Rutgers and UConn, too.  In other words, don’t go placing any bets that the lineup will ever actually come together.




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