SBD/July 23, 2012/Colleges

Rick Pitino Endorses ESPN's Jay Bilas As Next Big East Commissioner

Jay Bilas called Pitino's endorsement an "interesting idea, and really flattering"
Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino said that his “choice for the Big East's next commissioner is Jay Bilas,” according to Brett McMurphy of CBSSPORTS.com. Pitino said the ESPN college basketball analyst would be a "grand slam" hire. Pitino wrote on his website, "Who should be the Big East's commissioner" is one of the questions he gets asked the most. Sources said that the number of candidates for the Big East's commissioner “has been narrowed to about 10.” The league “hopes to have a new commissioner hired by Sept. 1, when the league begins renegotiating its media rights deal with ESPN” (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/21). Pitino: “I would take a portion of the Syracuse and Pittsburgh money, give him a 5 year contract and pay him 2 million per year. He has charisma, knows T.V., has a legal background, outstanding presence, and a creative thinker. He would be a grand slam” (RICKPITINO.com, 7/21). Bilas said, “Interesting idea, and really flattering. But I’m not sure the Big East presidents are ready for a little Jeezy bumping in the Big East hallways. It would be nice to earn almost as much as the NCAA President, though.” CBSSPORTS.com’s Gary Parrish wrote, “I’d still advise against dismissing the idea completely because Pitino carries a lot of weight in the Big East office, and the league has a history of following his suggestions” (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/21).

LET HIM LEAD: In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel asked whether new Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby will “take the lead on visionary decisions like conference expansion and media ventures, or will he merely be executor of whatever the 10 presidents want?” Bowlsby “did not take kindly to the inference that he will be less than” a Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany or a SEC Commissioner Mike Slive or a Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. He said, “I would suggest you do a little homework on me. I haven’t been a puppet over the years.” Tramel: “Big 12 presidents historically have not micromanaged. They've just managed. That needs to change for the Big 12 to remain among the top-tiered conferences. The Big 12 must let Bob Bowlsby lead” (OKLAHOMAN, 7/22). In Dallas, Chuck Carlton wrote if everything goes according to plan, Bowlsby would “like nothing better than to open Big 12 media days with an announcement of strength and stability.” A 13-year, $2.56B TV deal with Fox and ESPN “has been pending since spring as lawyers for the Big 12 and the networks comb through the contractual fine print.” Instead of the “inevitable questions about the recent rocky past, Bowlsby could point to a remarkable resurrection.” With the TV deal, the addition of TCU and West Virginia and the Champions Bowl partnership with the SEC, the Big 12 “is alive and very well.” Bowlsby said, “I’m hopeful of being able to do it. Long-form agreements take time to finalize. We’ve had dozens of calls and several meetings” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 7/22).

STANDING STRONG: ACC Commissioner John Swofford said that the conference was formed in ’53 and “will be around for the foreseeable future.” He added that rumors of Florida State and Clemson leaving for the Big 12 “were just rumors and the league’s vitality was never in question.” Swofford: “That’s never been an issue in my mind. You’re looking at a league that has a group of schools that are together for all the right reasons.” He added, “You’re talking about a league that a year from now that will be 14 member institutions -- all of them are basically in the top 100 academically of the institutions in the United States. We have the entire eastern seaboard and nine contiguous states” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/23).

SIGH OF RELIEF: In N.Y., Dick Weiss wrote, “High praise to Big Ten Conference leaders, who came to their senses Friday and quickly squashed the idea of giving league commissioner Jim Delany the authority to punish schools with fines, suspensions and the ability to fire coaches.” This would have “set a horrible precedent for college athletics” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/22).
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