Big East welcomes its latest defection
Unlike the other big defections the Big East weathered over the last three years, John Marinatto's was one that left observers wondering what took so long.
On the commissioner's watch, the conference lost Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia — some senior members of the conference, some good football schools and, in the case of the Mountaineers, the obstacle Rutgers could never overcome. Perhaps most embarrassingly, Marinatto lured TCU, a respected football school in its own right, only to watch it flee to the Big 12 before playing a single down as a Big East member. It's not surprising that he took a forced resignation Monday.
The list of schools that have left is damning enough, but add Louisville and Connecticut — and of course Rutgers, which is pushing hard to legitimize its wildly expensive sports programs — to the mix, and you've basically lost it all. The conference needed a change at the top, and it needed it fast. About the only hope being held out right now for the future is the TV deal due the conference, which could represent a major windfall — but insiders apparently had less confidence in Marinatto than the New York Jets have in Mark Sanchez. From the Ledger:
A year ago, the Big East reportedly walked away from a nine-year deal with ESPN through 2022-23, which was said to be worth $110 (million) to $130 million annually. Marinatto's belief was that he could drive up the overall price on the league's TV rights with more networks — NBC Sports Network and Fox — entering the picture. But those inside the Big East didn't feel Marinatto was savvy enough to land the best deal.
Marinatto's solution to all the bleeding wasn't to stop the blood flow so much as it was to pump in more blood to be sucked away. In addition to TCU, he brought on a plethora of schools that speak more to quantity than quality, especially when you consider how far student athletes will now be traveling for games.
As a Villanova grad, I can confidently say that my undergraduate years taught me nothing about college football but plenty about basketball — and I get the feeling Marinatto shares my shortcomings. Unfortunately, the dollars are all on the gridiron, and whether the conference can survive without becoming a major football power is a legitimate concern. So perhaps it's time to bury the conference altogether, but at least Marinatto can say he left the conference Big — if no longer East.
UPDATE (11:42 a.m.): I just realized I wrote this entire blog post without making a "Big Least" joke.
Another UPDATE (12:34 p.m.): A reader on Twitter points out that the Bloomberg report is focused on athletics spending, not just football. Football is the reason those expenses are so high — but the reader makes a good point. It's been updated above.
I'm even more irreverent on Twitter @joe_arney.