Marinatto's Departure From Big East Latest Sign Conference Focusing On Football
John Marinatto's departure as Big East Commissioner less than three full years into his tenure “further accentuates the transition of the Big East from a basketball-centric conference to a football-centered one," according to Prunty & Luicci of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. Three Big East officials said that they expect the next commissioner "to have a heavy background in football and/or television -- breaking from the Providence family tree that sprouted the conference’s first three commissioners: Dave Gavitt, Mike Tranghese and Marinatto.” A source said negotiations for a new TV deal, which can begin in September, are “arguably the singular defining moments in our league’s history.” A formal list of candidates has not been compiled, but a source said that the "only hire that could come from within the league office” is Senior Associate Commissioner for Football & Marketing Nick Carparelli. He is “respected throughout the league for his dealings on the television side of things and has picked up a lot of clout in the restructuring of the league in the wake of defections last year." Meanwhile, Prunty & Luicci cite four Big East officials as confirming CBSSports.com's report that Marinatto "was asked to resign by the conference’s presidents” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 5/8). ESPN's Joe Schad said the presidents "wanted someone who could bring a bigger personality, who had a more clear vision, who had more creativity." Schad: "They want somebody who can handle himself in that room of BCS commissioners. That’s so important, and there’s nothing more important in the wake of the loss of Pittsburgh and West Virginia and Syracuse than what the Big East gets accomplished in that upcoming television rights negotiation." A search committee will be put together to find the next commissioner, and the conference “wants to make sure they have that new commissioner in place by September," when the TV rights become open again ("College Football Live," ESPN, 5/7).
THE GREAT DIVIDE: In N.Y., Pete Thamel reports since the October departures of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC, the ADs of the conference’s non-FBS universities “have had frequent conference calls about the state of the league.” While the plan now is “to stay put, the non-FBS Big East programs lost a comfortable partner in Marinatto.” The basketball schools “wield an unusual amount of power, and if they pull out, it could start a chain reaction that would doom the remaining programs.” Those schools “could also make a play for the league’s most valuable remaining asset -- the five-day Big East men’s tournament” at MSG (N.Y. TIMES, 5/8). With talks about the TV contract beginning as early as September, several college football officials said that the league "would be best served if it stayed together, even in its unwieldy current configuration” (USA TODAY, 5/8). In Providence, Jim Donaldson writes, “Put simply, football has been the downfall of a league that was built on basketball and quickly established itself as a conference second to none in college hoops” (PROVIDENCEJOURNAL.com, 5/7).
PRESIDENTS DESERVE SOME BLAME: CBSSPORTS.com’s Brett McMurphy wrote Marinatto is "not solely to blame for the Big East losing four schools since he became commissioner." The league’s presidents "are the ones that bumbled and stumbled so that their league became more of a punch line than a BCS conference.” After Marinatto took over for Tranghese, “he was doomed." McMurphy: "It was only a matter of time. He was set up to fail by the league’s presidents because they handcuffed his ability to make any relevant changes” (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/7). ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil wrote the Big East presidents “made a rearview window hire when the league desperately needed someone who could look into a crystal ball," and a "once proud conference is in shambles because of it.” O'Neil: "The league didn’t need a man well-versed in the past; it needed someone who could project for the future. Marinatto couldn't and now, while everyone else is in line waiting to cash in on whatever football playoff system the BCS configures, the Big East is trying to redefine its very identity on the fly” (ESPN.com, 5/7). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes the presidents “made the wrong decision” when they hired Marinatto. It was a decision “looking more to 1998 and not 2018, looking toward what was and not what will be” (HARTFORD COURANT, 5/8). ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel writes, “Whether anyone could have kept the conference’s original basketball-oriented members and its football-playing newbies happy is a fair question. It’s no knock on Marinatto, a back-of-the-house guy, that he failed. The conference presidents made a poor decision when they promoted him” (ESPN.com, 5/8). SI.com’s Stewart Mandel wrote Marinatto “seemed in over his head from nearly the day he replaced Tranghese.” While Marinatto “deserves part of the blame, his presidents should garner as much, if not more.” His demise “may be most directly tied to remaining loyal to the league’s basketball ranks after it became clear football would dictate the Big East’s fate” (SI.com, 5/7). In Louisville, Eric Crawford writes under the header, “Big East Top Job A Thankless Endeavor” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 5/8).
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS: ESPN.com’s Andrea Adelson wrote the "schism between basketball and football members has always been there, but what has become increasingly evident is that Marinatto was powerless to stop the growing gap.” Adelson: “Whoever emerges as the next leader of this conference must pound his fists on the table, twist some arms and get everybody to believe in one singular vision -- to get everybody to truly understand that in college athletics today, football must be the No. 1 priority” (ESPN.com, 5/7). ESPN's Ed Cunningham said to survive, the Big East should “continue to make a regional group of teams and schools that have really good athletic departments, but don’t worry about their football." Cunningham: "Go for your football across the nation, go wherever you have to go to find football-only members” (“College Football Live,” ESPN, 5/7). CBSSPORTS.com’s Matt Norlander wrote Marinatto’s replacement “has to be a basketball-first guy." Norlander: "The Big East is never going to be a premier football player. … The Big East was borne out of and earned its bread on basketball for decades” (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/7). In N.Y., Lenn Robbins writes Marinatto’s successor will be “sanctified for saving the league by landing a lucrative TV deal this fall, or vilified for being on the watch when the league self-destructed.” The next commissioner must be “the polar opposite of Marinatto, whose close-to-the-vest style was a stark contrast to the style of the league’s founding commissioner, Dave Gavitt, and his successor, Mike Tranghese." The new commissioner "must be a deal maker” (N.Y. POST, 5/8).