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Big East interim commissioner Joe Bailey steps into transitional role

The Big East has been undergoing a bevy of changes, and that includes its new search for a commissioner.

The conference introduced Joe Bailey as interim commissioner this afternoon over a teleconference with media outlets from across the country. Bailey will temporarily take over for John Marinatto, who was asked to step down earlier this week.

Bailey, who served as the Miami Dolphins CEO from 2005 to 2009 and has done the same with the Dallas Cowboys, has served as a managing partner of the Global Sport Leadership Advisory Group. The group "advises on solving complex problems that involve vision, strategic alignment, general execution, and talent management." (credit: Beyond Sport).

Well, that sounds a lot like the issues facing the Big East Conference in 2012. Bailey, who does not plan on holding the position of Big East commissioner for long, will be involved in discussions regarding realignment, the impending TV contract negotiations, and the conference's role in BCS matters. But he emphasized that his role is advisory and tradition.

As such, a conference looking for answers and guidance will continue to wait for a strong hand to guide them.

More, below the fold.

After losing Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC and West Virginia and TCU to the Big 12, the conference's stability has been under national scrutiny within college sports. The image of the conference is that of a fractured group looking for ways to more stable football-only conferences.

"All of the schools in the Big East think in terms of being in a community," Bailey mentioned on Wednesday. "People are very enthusiastic about the future of the Big East."

Enthusiasm. That doesn't make much sense considering the amount of negativity that has surrounded the Big East in recent times. The Big East has clearly been labeled as an inferior league for football revenues - a major factor in the desire for membership.

"It's clear that the executive committee and membership are concerned with maintaining strong strategy management," he continued. "The Big East is focused on making sure the perception is not [that the conference is unraveling]."

The Big East has brought Bailey in solely as a transitional manager, and not necessarily a leader for essential decision making. His impressive leadership and problem-solving background makes him qualified for the job of stabilizing the conference and guiding those more informed about its pertinent issues.

One of those issues, which was brought up multiple times on Wednesday, is the impending television contract negotiations. Last year, John Marinatto was close with closing a deal with ESPN that would have extended the conference's relationship with the Worldwide Leader in Sports through 2022-23.

Months later, uncertainty still hovers over the Big East, while the Atlantic Coast Conference finalized an extension with ESPN through 2026-27 for a rumored $17 million per institution.

"My understanding is that [Big East contract] negotiations will begin in the fall," Bailey assured. "From our perspective, we'll probably have a number of interested parties because of what the Big East represents. The results will be positive."

Clearly, the negotiations of a new deal will be primarily geared toward the football side of operations. But Big East basketball, one of the most highly-regarded leagues in America, would be vastly affected as well. When asked about the marketability of the conference today, Bailey danced around the question.

"Media rights are constantly increasing," he said. "There is a market demand for what we like to call authentic content. There's a difference between sports, which is authentic, and entertainment, which is contriving."

Yes, the Big East should have a number of interested parties; but with ESPN as the big player in the media rights market, will any of the other interested parties propose bids anywhere near the numbers that other conferences are receiving?

Bailey will hold the position as long as he needs to, but he does not consider himself a candidate for becoming the permanent Big East commissioner. The Big East will hire a search firm to look for a leader who can be at the helm for a long time, to grow with the conference. The current timetable - per his experience with the search firm RSR Partners - is about three or four months.

Bailey mentioned that the Big East Conference will be retaining strategy consultants to help change the perception that some have of the league - referring, possibly, to the Boston Consulting Group mentioned in the press release about Marinatto's ouster.

When asked directly about a split along football/ non-football lines, Bailey clearly stated that there was "no indication from anybody I've talked to that there's any kind of idea of a split."

The Big East is transitioning before our eyes. Whether the changes are for the better or worse still remains to be seen. The interim sheriff will hold the group together; but the next Commissioner still has an enormous job in front of him or her.


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