SBD/September 20, 2011/Colleges

Remaining Big East Schools Discussing Possible Merge Into Big 12

Remaining Big 12 schools like Kansas, Missouri could absord Big East members
Talks of a merger between the Big East and Big 12 "have centered on an arrangement in which what's left of the Big East schools would blend into the Big 12, and not vice-versa," according to sources cited by Andy Katz of ESPN.com. The sources indicated that if Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State were to leave the Big 12 and the five remaining schools -- Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State -- "didn't have a landing in the ACC, SEC or Big Ten then they would move to absorb remaining Big East schools, not the other way around." A Big 12 source said that the "reason it would absorb the Big East is the conference's ability to secure a television deal." The Big 12's BCS bid, however, "won't be a lock under a new configuration" (ESPN.com, 9/20). The AP's Ralph Russo cited a source as saying that there "has been 'alive and ongoing' dialogue between athletic directors and high-level officials" in the Big East and Big 12. Big East Commissioner John Marinatto last night said that he "was confident the league would emerge stronger from the loss of Syracuse and Pittsburgh." Marinatto said that he "planned to hold Syracuse and Pittsburgh to their 27-month contractual exit obligations, meaning that they would not be able to leave the Big East until June 2014." He would not comment specifically about the Big 12 (AP, 9/19). Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick confirmed that the "remaining Big East and Big 12 schools could merge." Swarbrick: "In some version, whether it's a formal conference merger or some derivation" (USA TODAY, 9/20).

WHAT'S THE FORECAST IN THE EAST? In N.Y., Lenn Robbins cites sources as saying that the ADs of the "non-FBS football-playing schools in the Big East held a conference call yesterday in which a strong sentiment was voiced to keep the league together." Despite the "sentiment expressed on the call, the growing belief throughout the member schools and league office is that the conference will probably splinter with the non-football schools separating from the football schools." The fact that Marinatto has remained "mystifyingly quiet of late has fanned speculation that some of the membership has lost faith in the direction of the league" (N.Y. POST, 9/20). Marquette Univ. President Father Scott Pilarz said his school is committed to the Big East "as of today." Pilarz: "I'm hoping that the Big East, in large part, will stay together" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/20). The Big East's non-FBS schools "seem to be staying on the periphery for now" (NJ.com, 9/19).

MARINATTO TO BLAME? N.Y. Daily News reporter Dick Weiss said, “If you’re the commissioner of that league, you have to make sure that you protect your most valuable assets. Syracuse and Pitt were two charter members. I think it was probably tacky on their part to not even bother to call him to tell him their plans until the story started breaking late Friday night, but by the same token, it may speak volumes to the lack of respect they have for what’s going on in Providence right now. … This league is in serious trouble" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 9/19). CBS' Tim Brando said ACC Commissioner John Swofford “doesn’t want to be invaded, so he decided to be proactive." Brando: "I cannot find fault with any commissioner that wants to do that. Now commissioners like Marinatto at the Big East and (Dan) Beebe at the Big 12 are being passed by because they were asleep at the switch. Guys like (Pac-12 Commissioner Larry) Scott and Swofford blitzed them. They were beaten by them. They were not as good as their job as these guys were good at theirs” (“The Tim Brando Show,” CBS Sports Network, 9/20). 1260-AM's Brent Axe said the Big East “as we know it is over, and I think you go right to the top," as it is not like Marinatto “didn’t see this coming” ("College Football Talk," Versus, 9/19). Former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese said that he "did his best to warn the league well in advance" this current situation could occur. Tranghese: "I told the people it was going to happen. John Marinatto knew it was going to happen." However, Tranghese said, "There's a lot of finger pointing, which disappoints me. That's something that I learned from Dave Gavitt that you never do" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 9/20).

WILD, WILD WEST: Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson yesterday said that movement in college sports has led the MWC "to resurrect merger discussions with Conference USA." In Boise, Brian Murphy notes the two conferences "discussed a partnership last year," and now are "discussing a football-only 'consolidation.'" Thompson said that "a 'federation' between the two leagues could help from a television perspective, creating a league that stretches from Hawaii to the East Coast and offers all-day programming and increased marketing and sponsorship opportunities." He said that "automatic qualification in the BCS would be a part of it." In addition, Thompson said that the MWC "has reached out to apparent fragile members of the Big 12 and Big East about joining his league" (IDAHO STATESMAN, 9/20). Thompson said, "In this day and age, consolidation might make sense. In doing our diligence, we have to explore all options. ... I don’t know the chances of this happening, but it is a solid idea and marked by enthusiasm on both sides to see what could come of it" (TULSA WORLD, 9/20). Thompson indicated that the two leagues "would be run independently in this scenario, but simply share a championship game." He also noted that he "has been talking to TCU on a constant basis to get a read on the Horned Frogs as they play their final season in the MWC." Thompson said that he "was hearing and sensing that TCU's first option is to stay with the plan of going to the Big East in what could be a likely merger under a Big 12 umbrella with its remaining schools" (ESPN.com, 9/20).
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