May 8, 2012

Marinatto Revisionism and More

Filed under: Big East,Conference — Chas @ 2:27 pm

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

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).

Also did not the big east turn down a deal last year that would have paid 15 million per team
and if so they should get at least the 17 millon this time that the ACC got cant see them taking less if they turned down 15 million last time
so with that 17 million forthe ACC seams small
the ACC should be worth more than the big east and at least as mutch as the big 12 should have been at least 20 million.

Comment by Frankcan 05.09.12 @ 6:59 pm

I just looked it up the ACC gets less per team than all the outhers except the big east and when they sign there new deal we will be last so as far as money goes we may have fucked up by going to the ACC WE MAY BE STABLE BUT WE WILL BE POOR COMPARED TO EVERY ONE ELSES TV DEAL 17 millon for acc teams 20 millon or more for outhers like the big 12 and big 10

Comment by Frankcan 05.09.12 @ 7:26 pm


Comment by steve1 05.09.12 @ 8:54 pm

Steve1 is that a i am pissed aarrgghh or what.

Comment by Frankcan 05.09.12 @ 9:31 pm

You got it. 2 – 0 Caps, their goalie is unconscious.

Comment by steve1 05.09.12 @ 9:45 pm

Gaborik is expensive…and useless.

Comment by steve1 05.09.12 @ 9:46 pm

How did Pitt F up?
Would you rather be stuck in what now appears to be a non-AQ cluster**** conference?
USF, UConn, Rutgers would all gladly trade spots with us.

Pitt just saw it’s TV revenue increase by $10 million. Sounds like a good day.
I’m not going to sweat $17 million vs. $20 million.

ACC did say they valued more exposure over more money. Not sure what that means – maybe Chas will later elaborate – but take that for what it’s worth.

Should finally add: Supposedly, the contract allows for reevaluation every 5 years. So in 2017, the amount may increase to $22 million per team, and in 2022 it may increase to $27 million.

The SEC supposedly had an optional 1-time reevaluation in their contract. No one else does, so the ACC may be #1 or #2 in dollar revenue come 2022.

Comment by originalether 05.09.12 @ 11:56 pm

you guys are my drama blog.
i’m excited, exhilerated, frightened, and calmed in the same day.
keep it coming.

Comment by pittkeith 05.10.12 @ 1:27 am

pittkeith, there is a lot hyperbole on this site, isn’t there?

Comment by wbb 05.10.12 @ 7:03 am

Espn does give great exposure. The exposure thing must somehow lead to more money or else I would take the extra 3 million per year. Will 17 million make FSU happy? They are running in the red and need the cash today and not what exposure buys them in the future. When the ACC expands again, the money will increase. They need to go after State Penn and the Domers. UConn and Rutgers could round things out. That would be worth a cool 30 million per year or more. Good times.

Comment by TX Panther 05.10.12 @ 7:45 am

What is crazy is that FSU fans think 17 million isn’t enough money (which is why the Big 12 rumors are out there and stronger), but Pitt under the new deal increases from 5 million to 17 million, which is huge. The money in college sports is out of control especially considering it is free labor.

I was reading that FSU and all other ACC teams might be allowed to “keep what they kill” in terms of bowl payouts. So if FSU makes the BCS playoffs they will get to keep the majority of the pay out, which would more than make up for the difference between conferences.

Also if the BCS playoff system that is to be determined makes it much harder for ND to get in the playoffs then chances are they will bolt for the ACC. So if they add ND plus another team the TV money will go up a ton.

Comment by Wardapalooza 05.10.12 @ 7:59 am

DONT KNOW IF WHAT I READ IS RIGHT BUT WHAT I READ SAID IF acc adds a team or two the pay out to each team goes down there is no room to change the deal
the article said so the ACC wont add ND or any one
else dont know if it is right but that is what it said.

Comment by Frankcan 05.10.12 @ 8:26 am

The article is big lead sports it says not word for word this should kill any lingering thoughts
that the acc will add ND
tht new contract does not insulate from conference realignment the disparity is enough for a bigger conference to swoop down and take a acc team if they want to.
read the article

Comment by Frankcan 05.10.12 @ 8:43 am

Frank, no one really knows what the contract says. The ACC commish has been talking a while about adding ND. I really doubt they’d sign a deal that would preclude adding ND and also allow for teams to leave.

Comment by Wardapalooza 05.10.12 @ 9:37 am

wardapalooza read the aeticle bye big lead sports
i may have missunderstud some of it but but i did not miss the part were yhey said the acc will not add ND or the part were they said biger conferense
can swoop down and take ACC teams read the article
your self may be the part were a new team will get
less then 17 millon i might have wrong.
but not the 2 main points abought ND or thatwe are not insulated from outher conference takeing teams from the acc read it your self

Comment by Frankcan 05.10.12 @ 9:57 am

Every League wants Pitt in it this year because they get to play against Tino.

Comment by Wayne 05.10.12 @ 10:14 am


Comment by Frankcan 05.10.12 @ 10:23 am

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