SBD/September 19, 2011/Colleges

Univ. Of Pittsburgh Chancellor Says He Warned Big East That School Could Leave

Pitt Chancellor Nordenberg claims he sent a letter to Big East officials in '10
Univ. of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said that the school “did not go behind the Big East’s back" regarding its impending move to the ACC, according to Paul Zeise of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. He claims he "sent a letter to conference commissioner John Marinatto last year stating that Pitt would seriously consider all opportunities to join other conferences presented to it, especially if the Big East did not come up with solutions to some of the major issues facing the football conference.” He also said that “it was not Pitt that led the charge for the Big East to turn down the television contract offered earlier this year despite several published reports to the contrary” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/19). Univ. of Louisville AD Tom Jurich said that the move by Pitt and Syracuse to join the ACC “caught many Big East members by surprise.” He added that Marinatto “learned about it through a reporter -- even though Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg is chairman of the Big East’s executive committee.” Jurich: “I don’t think people saw that coming because you had a president that was leading the charge, a president of the executive committee that everybody entrusted” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 9/18). Jurich added the most recent moves were "kind of a shock to everybody” (ESPN.com, 9/18). Baylor AD Ian McCaw said, "No honor, no trust. I think there's really a lack of honor and a lack of trust throughout college athletics right now. It's very unhealthy" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/18).

MIXED EMOTIONS: USA TODAY’s Steve Wieberg writes Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick, whose school is a member of the Big East outside of football, “portrayed Nordenberg as a figure of influence and took issue with ‘a university’s leadership taking a position that it was going to lead a conference’s efforts in keeping it together and … with no notice to anybody, abandoning it.” Nordenberg yesterday said, “Every university leader involved in intercollegiate athletics really has two fundamental responsibilities. One is to work to build strength in a current conference home. The second is to be appropriately attentive to the changing landscape and institutional opportunities that might need to be pursued” (USA TODAY, 9/19). In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik writes, “Except for winning the football national championship in 1976, this is the most important event in Pitt athletics in at least the past 60 years.” He added Nordenberg "is a villain" to schools such as Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida. However, Nordenberg and Pitt AD Steve Pederson "are heroes -- or at least should be -- to Pitt supporters.” They were “proactive” and earned the school a “seat at the table of power when there were not that many of those seats available” (POST-GAZETTE.com, 9/19).

 OUT OF JURISDICTION: ESPN.com’s Andy Katz reported NCAA President Mark Emmert indicated that he “has been consulting conference commissioners and presidents of schools debating conference moves, but that he has no ability to affect the movement in college athletics.” Emmert: “I’ve been talking to commissioners and presidents and helping to try to keep people focused on the picture and reminding people at the end of the day we’re talking about student-athletes and I think the institutions are being as thoughtful as they can on this. We don’t have a formal role in any conference configurations. The presidents have always had that and always will.” He added, “The members have never given the NCAA the authority over conference configuration and they’re unlikely to ever do that.” Katz noted Emmert made the point “about how important the NCAA’s $10.8 billion, 14-year deal for the men’s NCAA basketball tournament with CBS/Turner Sports is to the membership and yet another reason why there isn’t anxiety at the headquarters over four super conferences leaving and forming their own version of the NCAA” (ESPN.com, 9/18).

MONEY ON THEIR MIND: A USA TODAY editorial is written under the header, “In College Sports, 10=12 and 12=10.” Syracuse and Pitt leaving the Big East is “just the latest sign of how administrators of schools with big-time athletic programs are more consumed with pursuing the almighty dollar than they are with cleaning up the scandal-plagued college sports scene.” They would “continue a trend of teams deserting the Big East and the Big 12 Conferences … to form what looks to be four ‘super conferences.’” This, in turn, “is part of a longer process of the strongest programs joining an ever-shrinking pool of elite conferences for the purposes of dominating the sport and its TV revenue.” The editorial: “One wonders why universities demand so much of their student-athletes, and so little of themselves” (USA TODAY, 9/19).

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