Look, I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of issues that are unique to the Big East among the major conferences. The size, very diverse membership (large urban public universities, small Catholic private universities in urban areas, large private universities, public land grant univerities) and foremost the split of football and basketball schools. So, yeah, being the Big East Commissioner comes with a particularly unique set of headaches.
That said, ex-Big East Commissioner John Marinatto is not the victim.
While you’re at it, blame him for high gas prices, unemployment and even the torn ACLs recently suffered by Derrick Rose and Mariano Rivera. It’s all Marinatto’s fault. Everything that has gone wrong in the world since he took over as the Big East’s commissioner on July 1, 2009 can be directly linked back to Marinatto.
On Monday, Marinatto resigned as the Big East’s commissioner. I don’t have the exact figures, but I’d guess about 99 percent of the college sports fans on Twitter wondered why Marinatto hadn’t been fired months earlier. And that’s sad. Because Marinatto is not solely to blame for the Big East losing four schools since he became commissioner. The league’s presidents are the ones that bumbled and stumbled so that their league became more of a punch line than a BCS conference. The same Big East presidents that make up the league’s board of directors that asked Marinatto to resign on Sunday.
After Marinatto replaced Mike Tranghese, he was doomed. It was only a matter of time. He was set up to fail by the league’s presidents because they handcuffed his ability to make any relevant changes.
“He was the human pin cushion,” a league source said. “Nobody in the world could have made this work. Look at the things he was dealt.”
He wanted the job, and was not strong enough or good enough to handle it. He thought he could pull it off because the strength of the basketball schools backing him would always put him with nearly 50% of the votes on anything. Then he was shocked. Shocked, I tell you, to learn that his cluelessness and inability to actually build consensuses on anything led them to throw him out of the lobster-bake.
Brett McMurphy has been absolutely phenomenal on covering expansiopocolypse and Big East actions. He broke the Marinatto fired story. But this piece is more than a little revisionist.
It credits Marinatto for getting TCU to the Big East. Despite the fact that it was Coach Jamie Dixon and Pitt that brought TCU to Marinatto. It suggests that USF’s president managed to block UCF from being invited around the same time — ignoring the whole Villanova maybe moving to 1-A portion.
USF, no dobut, did not want UCF in at that point. Just as Villanova fought Temple for decades. But neither did it without basically the basketball schools helping to block those programs. The same people to whom Marinatto was beholden.
Somehow it manages to get someone to claim that the rejected TV deal Marinatto negotiated was the lynchpin that could have kept Pitt, Cuse, WVU and even TCU from leaving.
That’s because in April of 2011, with TCU on board, Marinatto and the league negotiated a nine-year deal worth $1.4 billion for its new media rights deal. Marinatto recommended to his presidents that they accept the offer and they promptly voted against it.
“I think that was the stupidest decision ever made [to turn it down] in college athletics,” a league source said. “To have the equity of ESPN as your brand and the stability that would have gone with it.”
… “If the TV deal was accepted and UCF had been added [as a 10th football member], who knows if Pitt and Syracuse ever leave,” an industry source said. “Everyone left because of stability and right there was your stability with that TV deal.” A month after Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced they were leaving, Marinatto — to help stabilize the league — recommended on Oct. 2 to the league’s presidents that the Big East should increase its exit fee from $5 million to $12 million-$15 million, according to documents obtained by CBSSports.com.
That’s a couple ifs to lead to more ifs. And one that should rightfully be called a load of crap. That deal was still under the amount of the ACC pay out, and completely took out the open market negotiations. The schools rightfully rejected it, as the Pac-12 media deal was revealed a month or so later.
Marinatto was doing the bidding of many of the basketball schools (Georgetown was a notable exception. They actively fought the early deal.) that just wanted to get money fast and in their own fantasy world as this example illustrates. The revisionism about how foolish the the Big East presidents were to reject that deal are insane. Even with the hot mess the conference is now, one can fully expect that they will still get close to the same numbers — probably better.
The problem for Marinatto was that even the basketball schools had lost faith in him. It wasn’t the claimed anger at feeling marginalized by the expansion to save the football side of that. They held the power to block it all, but approved the new teams. They may not have liked what happened, but they all swallowed hard and signed off on it because it was still in their best financial interests.
But the basketball schools were not going to let that same financial future rest in Marinatto’s hands after the last 12 months. Nice to have a weak leader when it gets you what you want (or stops others). But when it puts you at risk. Time for a change.
On related matters, there is probably no greater example of the basketball schools self-delusion than this:
One of the biggest stumbling points has been how the television money would be divided among the basketball and football schools. Last year, at the spring meetings in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., one proposal suggested a 75/25 split — 75 percent of the money going to football schools, and 25 percent going to basketball schools. One athletic director at a basketball school raised his hand and wondered why the numbers were not flipped, since hoops is the reason the Big East exists in the first place.
You can imagine how well that went over in the room.
That ability to believe that somehow basketball drove the bus in TV money does explain much of why the Big East basketball schools seem to be the ones to keep floating the idea of the split more than the football schools. There is a persistent myth that somehow refocusing only on basketball will make things much better.
Another exhibit of this is the former Big East Commish, Mike Tranghese. With Marinatto fired, and Tranghese’s punting of the problems down the road onto his friend’s plate, Tranghese decides to get talky again. After all, there is a legacy to defend. And he chooses to do it by reverting to cluelessness to the New York Times.
“I thought that the basketball and football schools coexisted beautifully up to the point when Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia departed,” Tranghese said Monday in a telephone interview. “At that point, I thought the basketball schools ought to take a real hard look. Whether they’re going to, I don’t know.”
Oh, lord. Welcome back to revisionism. Suddenly all appeared peachy. Let’s flashback about seven months:
“I would have worked another four or five years,” he told Sporting News recently. “I knew all this stuff was coming. I knew it wasn’t ending. I knew the football structure of the Big East was fragile. It’s a hard way to operate. The problem with Big East football is they didn’t win enough games.”
That was Tranghese explaining that part of the real reason he quit as Commissioner was not his fear of flying, but because he didn’t want to deal with the next Big East exodous — that he saw coming, but suddenly didn’t.
That little fact-checking took away from the fact that even Mike Tranghese has deluded himself into thinking that the basketball schools should consider splitting. It’s a nice fantasy for the Big East basketball schools.
Split from the football schools + take Notre Dame + top A-10 programs (Xavier, Butler, UMass, Richmond, Dayton) + whatever hot mid-major team is out there (VCU) = PROFITS
No. You would be a stronger A-10. Take a look at their media deal. Without even Big East football to bundle, the value of your product is not that much. It’s why the next media deal will give most of the money to the football schools. Something the NY Times article acknowledges.
The surprising reality with the Big East — if it stays together in its intended 13-team and 18-team formats — is that it could still be a lucrative league. Football drives the financial bus, and basketball provides boundless inventory. While there have been plenty of jokes about who would want to watch San Diego State and Connecticut play football, apparently someone is willing to pay to find out.
Neal Pilson, a media consultant and former president of CBS Sports, predicted that the Big East could surpass the deal it turned down last year, which was considered similar in value to the A.C.C.’s $155 million annual deal.
“I think if they stay together and negotiate as a single unit, I think they can come away with a reasonably favorable result,” Pilson said. “Even more than what ESPN offered a year and a half ago. I think the competition will drive it.”
Which is why all those stupid statements about how turning down the ESPN deal last year is so annoying. Anyone who actually is or was involved with media contracts has been saying since last year that the Big East will get a better deal on the open market. Even without Pitt, Syracuse, WVU (and eventually Louisville).