If there is any one body that needs solid leadership the most, it's the Big East Conference. Poor management over the past calendar year (and perhaps more) has led the league into a crisis of identity, financial stability, and future planning.
As the New York Post's Lenn Robbins reported earlier on Wednesday, the Big East is getting very close to choosing its next head man. Joe Bailey, the former Miami Dolphins executive, has served as commissioner on an interim basis since May after John Marinatto was forced out behind pressure from league presidents.
The national search that began with the screening of two hundred candidates has been narrowed to just five. Bailey says that by August's end, the Big East will have made its decision - just before the start of the college football season and the league's upcoming television contract negotiations.
Whoever the Big East chooses to lead the conference in the future will serve as the league's fourth full-time commissioner since its inception in 1979.
More, below the fold.
There was certainly a time when the Big East was considered the strongest, most stable conference in the landscape of college sports. Built on the core of eight institutions since the early-1980's, the league was not only defined by high quality athletics, but also by consistent academic standards and recognizable values.
Now, the Big East is enduring its most stressful period of its 33-year history. Realignment and an unsigned TV contract have placed an ominous cloud over the league's Providence, RI offices. It doesn't seem like the most ideal time to be undergoing an upper-management change.
But the Big East has no choice other than to collect all that it now has, and move on. Bailey and the remainder of the conference's staff, many of whom are leftover from Marinatto's tenure, know that the essential decisions cannot be made by those employed temporarily.
As Robbins states in his article, the Big East is down to five candidates for the job. The seach committee is focusing mostly on identifying an external replacement, although the league's best choice may be found within its own walls.
Nick Carparelli Jr., the Big East's senior associate commissioner for football and marketing, could be a good fit as Marinatto's successor. Carparelli, who was swarmed by reporters at Tuesday's Big East football media day, seems to be already taking the brunt of responsibilities. So, why not an official promotion?
Robbins suggests that the Big East should promote current associate commissioner for television and men's basketball scheduling, Tom Odjakjian, to be Carparelli's right hand man. Sure, this is mere speculation. But Lenny might have something there.
With the television contract negotiations set to begin in September, the Big East may need to have someone close to the scene who is keen with the marketing side of sports business. League sources claim that a number of networks are interested in servicing the Big East if ESPN doesn't renew the current deal, including NBC, FOX, and CBS.
The Big East is looking to work out the logistics of a deal somewhere close to the $3.6 million deal ESPN recently signed with the ACC. "That's the kind of event that needs to happen for us to show signs of stability," said Carparelli in May.
How does the hiring of a new commissioner affect St. John's? The Red Storm are sitting in an a category of non-football and non-BCS football schools with Georgetown, Villanova, Providence, Seton Hall, DePaul, and Marquette. As realignment rumors swirl around UConn, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Louisville, Cincinnati, and South Florida, St. John's is virtually placed into limbo.
The Johnnies' future will ultimately move simultaneously with the future of the conference. Once the Big East hires its next commissioner, it will be able to begin its next era. The league has much work to do to regain its reputation as America's best conference, and improved leadership is the first of many steps.