John Marinatto, former Big East Commissioner. (photo from nj.com)
Long embattled Big East Commissioner John Marinatto has resigned under duress by the league's presidents. Big East presidents asked Marinatto, the third commissioner in the conference's 33-year history, to resign on Sunday.
Under Marinatto the Big East had been hit by several defections due to conference realignment -- TCU and West Virginia left for the Big 12 and Pittsburgh and Syracuse will leave for the ACC in 2013 or 2014.
However, Marinatto had brought in eight new members -- Temple, Memphis, SMU, UCF, Houston, Boise State, San Diego State and Navy -- to stabilize the football side of the league. Temple will join in 2012 with the others joining in 2013, except Navy, which will join in 2015.
While Marinatto has received a lot of the public blame for the league's current instability, ironically Tranghese said it was Marinatto who saved the conference after Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech left the league in 2003.
The Big East's league meetings will begin in one week in Florida. The Big East will have Joseph Bailey III as the interim commissioner. He is a former CEO of Miami Dolphins and is currently managing director of RSR Partners.
“Joe is a proven leader who will do a terrific job guiding the conference through this time of transition,” said South Florida President/ Big East Chair Dr. Judy Genshaft. “His experience as a manager and his knowledge of the sports industry make Joe uniquely qualified to serve as interim Commissioner. He will move the Conference forward with a steady-hand as we explore new opportunities.”
“The BIG EAST has a terrific future,” said Bailey III. “I’m excited to participate in shaping a new structure and strategic plans for the Conference, and I look forward to engaging on these matters with the leadership of all of the Conference’s members, old and new alike.”
The Conference also announced that it has retained The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to review its organizational design and structure. As the BIG EAST transitions to a national conference, its members will take this opportunity to position the Conference to maximize its media rights, branding and other strategies.
With the rest of college sports, the Big East is hammering out a non-BCS college football playoff plan that will eliminate the automatic qualification for the champions of conferences. That plan looks likely to leave the football-weak Big East on the outside of the big payoff football championship games. The league's lack of strong traditional bowl games also leaves the Big East in a poor spot regarding bowl tie-ins.
Those changes will have an effect on the kind of television contract the Big East will be able to negotiate. Many of the realignment decisions the Big East has made in response to defections have been made with an eye towards having a viable football conference with enough members for a playoff.
For basketball fans - including those who believe the league should split along basketball/ football lines - these moves are of great importance.
The league's viability is at stake. The football side is composed mostly of teams that were in the less- regarded Conference USA and/ or geographically distant as of ten years ago. The traditional all-sports rivalries that teams like St. John's and Georgetown had have been severed as programs look for security.
The programs that don't participate in football deficit spending won't know what their competition will look like in five years, as conference memberships are buffeted by the tumultuous seas of college football. College basketball may be socially popular and does bring in revenue, but the largest chunk of revenue for college programs come from television distribution rights.
College football draws much more viewership that college basketball, especially for regular season games (some research here, or you can read Dan Wetzel's Death to the BCS). College basketball is much healthier when attached to the money trough that is college football, like it or not. But programs that participate in all sports may see the basketball-only programs as a weight on the league, with influence that outstrips their worth to a new television contract.
Marinatto hoped that waiting until this year to lock down the Big East's television rights with a network would drive the contract higher than the $1 billion offer from ESPN last year for football and basketball. That miscalculation was a major factor in Marinatto's ouster.
Now, a new commissioner will work to make the Big East's hybrid model of basketball-only, basketball/ football, and football-only schools work, while fending off attempts from the Big XII and the Atlantic Coast Conference to poach the remaining valuable schools (Louisville, Rutgers, Connecticut, Boise State).