SBD/December 18, 2012/Colleges

Tranghese Calls Big East Move "Inevitable" As New Conference Looks To Add Teams

Tranghese says lack of a top football team allowed the Big East to get "picked apart"
Former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese said that the seven Catholic, non-FBS schools “leaving the conference to pursue a new basketball framework was inevitable,” according to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com. Tranghese said, "There was too much stress put on the structure (of the Big East). Mostly by football and the money. I'm not crying or moping on it. It was an incredible run for 30 plus years. I'm sad to see it go and it's time to move on and focus on what lies ahead in the future." Tranghese added of critics blaming the seven schools departing on former Big East Commissioner John Marinatto or current Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco, “If they want to blame someone, blame me. The thing the Big East didn't have was a football leader -- a Florida, Alabama or USC -- a team that contended for the national championship every year or carried the league. ... We weren’t strong enough football-wise and we got picked apart. If there was someone out there that could have made us more powerful we would have went after them” (ESPN.com, 12/17). In Newark, Brendan Prunty cited sources as saying that the move was “based on acquiring a level of stability these schools felt had been lacking for much of the past 18 months.” Prunty wrote the “most ironic piece” of the plan to form their own conference “is that in order to survive, they must expand themselves -- thus, doing the same thing that necessitated their departure in the first place.” The “current consensus is to have a 12-team league” (NJ.com, 12/17). Tranghese said college athletics “will eventually have four or five super conferences." He added, "In the end, people are always going to run toward the money” (USA TODAY, 12/18).

NEW ADDITIONS? The AP noted Xavier and Butler reportedly are “two schools the 'Catholic 7' would like to include in a 10- or 12-team league, even though Butler is not a Catholic institution.” However, Butler has a “national reputation as a strong basketball school, a city with an NBA arena that could host the conference tourney and a television market in a basketball-crazed state that could be an attractive option for a network” (AP, 12/17). Butler President James Danko in a statement said, “The fact that Butler is now being mentioned prominently as a potential candidate to join the ‘Catholic 7’ universities in a new athletic league, is a tribute to the success of our athletic program overall and our men’s basketball team, in particular. ... This national prestige naturally leads to speculation about Butler’s athletic future.” In Indianapolis, David Woods writes, “It doesn't take much reading between the lines to deduce that Butler is ready and willing to leave the Atlantic 10 and join an as-yet-unnamed new basketball conference” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 12/18). Meanwhile, in Richmond, Paul Woody writes the “upcoming seismic shift might have a profound effect on” the Univ. of Richmond and VCU. Despite “offering excellent basketball programs, A-10 members Richmond and VCU could be on the outside looking in.” If offered “membership in this new league, Richmond and VCU have to accept.” But the schools “need backup plans,” as remaining in a "watered-down A-10 is not the answer” (RICHMOND TMIES-DISPATCH, 12/18).

SOUTH BENT? SI.com’s Pete Thamel wrote Notre Dame “finds itself in the precarious position of potentially not knowing in which conference it might play basketball and other sports next season.” Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said, "It is an untenable situation and we have to actively consider how we can get to resolution. You have two halves of a conference splitting and that creates real uncertainty for Notre Dame given the things that have to be negotiated among those parties." Thamel noted the “biggest issue hovering over the future of both leagues is their lack of a television agreement.” Swarbrick: "The challenges of entering into new media agreements may play a big role in what the timing really is. Neither party to this dispute has a media agreement at the end of this basketball season" (SI.com, 12/17). Swarbrick said that Notre Dame, like the seven departing schools, is “not on the hook to pay an exit fee to the Big East.” But the AP’s Ralph Russo noted an “early exit might require some type of compensation.” Swarbrick: "The challenge in this environment is, we're not the focus right now. We're the tail. That's a little bit of the challenge for us: How do you accelerate the discussion? How do you get some clarity?” (AP, 12/17). CBSSPORTS.com’s Dennis Dodd wrote college athletics is “waiting to see” if Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany is “done expanding.” If Delany is “standing down, at least for a while, then Notre Dame and the ACC can be free to prosper.” A source said that the ACC is “in the process of monetizing its soon-to-be lucrative digital network” located in Charlotte (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/17).

AND THE RACE IS ON...: CBSSPORTS.com's Dodd in a separate piece wrote the “race has commenced” to be “college football's No. 6 conference.” At this point “it doesn't really matter what it is called," as its "existence is more important than its name.” The Big East prior to the seven schools departing would have been the conference receiving a “guaranteed playoff bowl berth in most years” beginning in ‘14. But now that “No. 6 designation is up for grabs.” There is “an old idea being discussed.” A source said, "If I were one of the other five commissioners, I would get on the phone and band together. I would become an über-conference. Forget superconference. Let our current (TV) contracts lapse. That's the only way to take this one” (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/17).
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