John Marinatto has resigned as Big East commissioner after three years. He clearly was not the right man for the position, though that should not obscure the fact there might not have been one. Marinatto failed, but he inherited a climate setup for failure.
The Big East is unwieldy and outmoded. It’s a traditional basketball conference, that still believes it is a basketball conference, a ludicrous notion in 2012. Football revenue is both large and inherent for stability. Football must be the first concern. There’s no such thing as a major basketball conference that dabbles in football. Major conferences are football conferences that dabble in basketball.
This basketball-centric attitude from the Big East has led to divisive and destructive factions acting solely in their own self-interest. Basketball schools blocked football-first expansion. Football schools blocked expansion that would have hurt the football brand. A new television deal with ESPN was voted down. The combination left the Big East at a incredible competitive disadvantage during conference realignment.
Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia jumped. TCU left the Big East at the altar after an overture from the Big 12. They might have left anyway, but the Big East could not even extend that conversation. The only reason Rutgers, Connecticut and Louisville are still there is because no one has moved in for them, yet.
Football is in disarray. The prospect of a major deal hangs in the balance, yet Big East presidents reportedly were perturbed because Marinatto did not placate the basketball programs. He didn’t solicit enough advice from a group that contained one AD who seriously suggested the basketball schools should get 75 percent of the revenue. The Big East is not a conference. It’s a dysfunctional gentlemen’s club.
Marinatto could not exert his authority within the conference and, crucially, he had no clue how to sell the conference. The conference claims ownership over New York City, yet its offices are in Providence and it holds its landmark media event for football in freaking Newport, Rhode Island. The Pac 12, yes that conference on the opposite coast, held media days in both New York and Bristol. Think it’s a coincidence their national football presence increased radically and the conference just inked a $3 billion TV contract? Marinatto discussed proactive and bold action. Larry Scott, hired around the same time, got it done.
John Marinatto was the wrong man, and he did a poor job. His failure, however, was largely the fault of systemic problems within the conference. Unless the Big East sorts itself out or hires (not appoints, hires) a commissioner with a lot more gravitas, expect the ineptitude to continue.
[Photo via Getty]