Posted on: August 3, 2011 12:45 pm
NEWPORT, R.I. -- If you saw John Marinatto 16 months ago he was sweating out the future of his conference. Literally.
Back in April 2010 the Big East commissioner was shepherded into a Phoenix resort conference room to discuss his conference's future with media during the annual BCS meetings. The pressure applied (and implied) by the Big Ten's Jim Delany perceived raid on the league had taken its toll. Marinatto was nervous, hot and had few answers.
"April 2010 was a challenge," Marinatto said. "I wasn't sure what we were walking into when we walked into that little room. It was a mine field, everything was so unstable. There was this real sense of fear, really."
He didn't know if his conference would hold together. Remember, this was during the height of conference realignment speculation. Fast forward to Tuesday here at the Big East media day where Marinatto was practically (Charlton) Heston-esque in delivering the conference's new message of optimism and solidarity.
Confident, articulate, proud, a man's man.
The upheaval that was supposed to usher in the era of the super conference was limited to five schools changing leagues this season. The Big East remained untouched; in fact it prospered adding TCU for 2012. There may be more teams on the way.
A combination of factors had Marinatto talking openly this week about further expansion, a possible conference championship game and a rights fee windfall due to hit some time in the next couple of years.
"We're living in a world where you pick up a paper or you're reading your tweets, there's something going on," Marinatto said explaining the Big East's new-found relevance. "You want to make sure you have enough inventory and enough schools. It is about existentialism at some point because you do want to have that security."
That would be the first time any of us have heard a conference commissioner play the "existentialism" card. But a quick check of dictionary.com shows what the commissioner is getting at. One of the definitions for existentialism is, "the individual's unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices."
That explains the league's position at the moment. Being the last major conference to renegotiate TV rights in the current rotation, the Big East figures to prosper in a marketplace that is absolutely in love with college football.
Reality TV sells. Sports is the ultimate reality TV because it's, well, genuinely real. Now add the fact that college football is the No. 2 sport in the country behind the NFL. The public wants to see football, it doesn't matter if it's Big East football. The league hasn't exactly been a national contender but in a weird twist has been a postseason success. It has a .615 bowl winning percentage in the BCS era. Despite the lack of a powerhouse, it can now claim seven of the top 14 markets when TCU joins in 2012.
That's part of the reason why Newport was populated with TV types from several networks, at least showing interest in snagging the Big East when its current ESPN expires in 2013 (football) and 2014 (basketball). NBC Comcast, which struck out on the Pac-12, is a player. So is Fox. Conventional thinking has it that current rightsholder ESPN will make a big push.
Point is, there are suitors with deep pockets. Who cares if the league based in the Northeast has extended all the way to Texas.
"If there can be a conference called the Big Ten that can have 12 schools, what's wrong with the Big East having a school in Dallas, Texas?" Marinatto said. "It's a brave new world."
The Big East wasn't such a ravishing beauty 16 months ago. Marinatto was worried that the Big Ten was going to pluck -- take your pick -- Syracuse, Rutgers and/or Pittsburgh. Delany was rattling the Big East's cage, if nothing else, in order to lure Notre Dame to his conference. It didn't work. The most attractive expansion candidate for the Big Ten turned out to be Nebraska.
Marinatto now has several options if his league wants to expand and stage a championship game which he said was "certainly a possibility." Army, Navy, Air Force, Central Florida and Villanova have been mentioned as candidates. Certainly TCU broke the seal for everyone on geographic restrictions.
"It [championship game] would give us more inventory," Marinatto said. "A football championship game maybe in New York City would be phenomenal. If we could ever replicate what we've done in basketball side on the football side in December ... what a phenomenal asset that would be."
How excited is Marinatto?
"We're in a position where, if we do things right, we won't be having this discussion 18 months from now," he said.
That's when TV negotiations begin. Let the deepest pockets win.
Posted on: November 2, 2010 5:38 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 6:57 pm
John Marinatto looked like a wounded man last spring in Phoenix. Not so much physically, but emotionally.
According to reports, the Big East commissioner's conference was under attack. The popular notion was that the Big East didn't have long to live after the predatory Big Ten got through with it. Depending on what you read, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and/or Syracuse, were candidates to leave the Big East. Marinatto put on a brave front last April at the BCS meetings saying the league was using former NFL commissioner and Georgetown chairman of the board Paul Tagliabue as a consultant.
In an unguarded moment, though, Marinatto admitted to checking his text messages for the latest news during Mass.
The skies cleared above the Big East a bit on Tuesday when the league announced it would expand to 10 football-playing schools at some point in the future. No timetable given but a conference source said, "You can say the Big East would want to move quickly."
At eight teams in football, the Big East is the smallest conference in Division I-A. It was weakened significantly when it lost Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston to the ACC in 2003. Since then, during BCS television negotiations at one point, the league received a waiver to remain an automatic qualifying BCS league because potential TV partners wanted the league's Northeast markets.
In the last month it was learned that the Big East and TCU of the Mountain West had spoken. Villanova, already a Big East basketball member, is trying to decide whether its I-AA football program should move up to I-A. If that is the case Temple, another Philadelphia school and former Big East member, would probably be out of the running for a return to the conference.
Other schools mentioned include Central Florida and Houston from Conference USA.
One source said Villanova was "50-50" about whether to join the league in football. If Villanova joined in football, the league would have to add only one more football member. An NCAA moratorium on I-AA teams transitioning to I-A ends next summer.
One potential hurdle has been removed if TCU were to join. The Mountain West does not have a financial penalty for schools that leave the league.
Best guess: If Villanova doesn't move up, look for TCU and Central Florida to join. The league would be wise to value the Dallas-Fort Worth and Orlando markets. The Big East already is in Tampa-St. Pete with South Florida. A natural conference rivalry no doubt would develop between UCF and USF.
After expansion, Big East could set to reap a financial windfall from its next television contract. The league's TV deal with ESPN and CBS expires after the 2012-13 season. The football deal with ESPN expires after the 2013 season. Negotiations would probably begin around September 2012.
Fox narrowly missed out on winning at least part of the ACC contract. A merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, another possible player in college sports, is awaiting federal approval.
The Big East presidents made the decision unanimously to expand Tuesday at their annual meeting. A smaller, core executive committee is studying the expansion issue and could meet anytime to address the issue, even by phone, according to a league spokesman.
Posted on: November 1, 2010 11:38 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 12:16 am
Big East presidents and athletic directors will meet Tuesday to discuss possible expansion, the New York Post reported on Monday.
The Post originally broke the story of Big East's interest in seemingly unlikely expansion candidate TCU. The interest turned out to be reciprocal. If you believe that college football is trending toward the mega-conference, then schools need to get into a BCS conference before the window of opportunity closes.
The Big East is interested in staying relevant by remaining one of those BCS conferences. It received a waiver to remain an automatic qualifier conference by the other BCS commissioners in the past because of television's desire to have those Northeast markets. With conference realignment anything but dead, commissioner John Marinatto wants to protect his league from poachers. Earlier this year, the Big Ten was a threat to the Big East. Rutgers emerged as an attractive addition to the Big Ten and perhaps will remain one in the future. The Big Ten eventually settled on Nebraska -- for now.
TCU is looking for its own relevance. The loss of BYU and Utah has damaged the Mountain West's ongoing attempt to get at least a temporary BCS bid in 2012 and 2013. TCU has shown a willingness to conference hop to improve its profile since being left out of the Big 12 in 1996. Ironically, if the Horned Frogs get a second consecutive bowl bid this year it would have gotten a huge boost from beating resurgent Baylor. TCU was left out of the Big 12 in favor of Baylor 15 years ago, mostly because of a political power play by then-Texas governor Ann Richards.
Other schools being mentioned for Big East expansion are Houston, Central Florida and either Temple or Villanova from Philadelphia. TCU and Central Florida seem to be the most likely expansion candidates at this point.
Posted on: September 28, 2010 5:10 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2010 10:07 pm
Citing anonymous sources, the New York Post is reporting that the Big East is interested in adding TCU.
Posted on: November 15, 2009 9:44 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2009 10:21 pm
Here’s why Rich Rodriguez is an odd fit for Michigan and Jim Harbaugh is an odder fit for Stanford …
The same reason that Notre Dame needs to reach out to Brian Kelly right now is the same reason Harbaugh should be playing footsie with his alma mater. But it can't happen for Harbaugh right now. As painful as the transition has been at Michigan, Rodriguez deserves another year. He has only 71 scholarship players (for a variety of reasons), the offense shows promise and, well, Harbaugh isn’t available.
It’s just not a good time. After the second-biggest victory Saturday in his short three years on The Farm – remember USC in 2007? – Harbaugh is hotter than July. Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby is hurrying to complete a contract extension that would tie up Harbaugh through 2014 at $1.25 million per year.
“Tie up” is a relative term these days. Because of the awkward timing, Michigan/Stanford could lose Harbaugh to another college or NFL team by the time it is ready to make a change after next season. The $1.25 million salary makes Harbaugh one of the highest paid coaches ever at Stanford. It’s also about half of what Harbaugh is currently worth on the open market.
What makes the Cardinal so interesting is that Harbaugh has installed a toughness gene. He talked before the season about playing physical. Sorry, but the words “toughness” and “Stanford football” seldom appeared in the same sentence ever. Until now.
Tailback Toby Gerhart has run for 401 yards the last two games. If he isn’t on the top of every Heisman list this week something is wrong. Owen Marecic started at linebacker and fullback on Saturday. Marecic already has broken a couple of helmets this year.
All of it sounds sooo like Michigan and sooo unlike Stanford that you’d figure that Harbaugh would be in Ann Arbor soon. But it’s too early for Michigan pull the trap door on Rich Rod and too early for Harbaugh to leave.
Here's why USC isn't done: At some point next month, the Trojans will wake up in El Paso and wonder how the hell they got there. It’s called the Sun Bowl, fellas, and it this rate you’re going to be playing in it.
The popular thing this week will be to bash USC and say that Troy has crumbled before our eyes. That would be true if some other team were out there to take control. Oregon leads the Pac-10 for now but still has to go to Arizona and beat Oregon State in the Civil War.
Arizona botched a great opportunity Saturday, losing at Cal which without Jahvid Best. Stanford, the hottest team in the league, has lost three times, one of them to Wake Forest. Suddenly Oregon State is in the mix.
This is not to say it isn’t bad. It’s real bad at USC right now.
“You could see that everything was not there,” Stanford’s Richard Sherman told the L.A. Times. “They didn’t run as hard. They didn’t play as hard.”
The 55 points were the most given up in the 121-year history of USC football. You never thought you’d see the day where a Pete Carroll team would lose that toughness groove. When you’re bitching about a run-it-up two-point conversion, which the Trojans were in the fourth quarter, that’s just deflecting bigger problems.
The quarterback (Matt Barkley) is a freshman and playing like it. The defense, led (?) by senior two-time All-American Taylor Mays, has been embarrassed. Turnovers are coming in bunches.
This would be cause for bigger alarm if USC couldn’t get it back, quickly. They can in the same way Carroll began storming the conference in 2002, by playing some of the best defense in the country. It seems laughable to think that now, but the recruiting isn’t going away and, until further notice, the conference isn’t exactly slipping away.
Carroll has lost one game -- one -- in November while at USC (28-1). Barkley is going to get getter. The defense can’t get any worse. If an 82-year-old man can lead Penn State within sniffing distance of its third BCS bowl in five years, if a small, private school in Fort Worth that doesn’t sell out its games can go undefeated, believe me, USC can get it back.
A lot of fingers will be pointed this week – at coaches and players. Remember this whole thing started with a wake up call in Sin City in 2001 at the Las Vegas Bowl for USC. Waking up in El Paso might be the shock to the system the Trojans need.
Yes, that’s SMU in first place in Conference USA’s West Division: The Mustangs beat Texas-El Paso becoming bowl eligible for only the third time since their last bowl in 1984. You might remember that the little thing called the death penalty that intervened.
The scuttlebutt is that the Ponies will play in the Hawaii Bowl. June Jones will triumphantly return to the scene of his greatest glories, this time to boost attendance at the Hawaii-less bowl.
Vandenberg, a freshman subbing for the injured Ricky Stanzi, led the Hawks back from a 24-10 deficit only to lose in overtime, 27-24.
Not another one!: SEC officials blew another one in the third quarter of the Florida-South Carolina game. Florida’s Brandon James clearly went to knee to field a punt near midfield. It didn’t matter as block in the back nullified James’ long return. Caleb Sturgis eventually missed a 54-yard field goal.
More incredible was the replay official in the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh game. Notre Dame had its final possession cut short when Jimmy Clausen was ruled to have fumbled while trying to throw. The replay clearly showed Clausen’s arm going forward as he was it. The ball came out at an odd angle, but it still came out while he was throwing. That was one of the more egregious rulings this season.
Stingy Blackshirts: Nebraska allowed its first rushing touchdown allowed in 14 quarters. Big deal. The Huskers rebounded to beat Kansas 31-17 and take the lead in the Big 12 North.
BCS trivia: In case you’re wondering, in the BCS era no unbeaten team from one of the power conferences has been knocked out of the BCS title game by a team with one loss. That possibility still exists for Cincinnati if Texas, Alabama or Florida lose.
Heisman hit: Going to be hard to justify Heisman mention now for Case Keenum. Houston’s two losses have come to Texas-El Paso and Central Florida. Can’t remember the last Heisman winner to lose to two directional schools. Keenum threw for 371 yards and three touchdowns in the 37-32 loss to Central Florida.
Heroism: Rowan (Division III) defensive end Matt Hoffman missed his team’s season-finale against The College of New Jersey. On Thursday, Hoffman began donating blood marrow to a 52-year-old man who is dying of lymphoma. Hoffman was one of seven matches found through a search of the national registry.
Dog of the day: Louisville beat Syracuse 10-9 in the dog game of the day. Somehow we’ve missed the fact that the once mighty Cardinals had lost nine Big East games in a row.
The no B.S., up-to-the-minute, not-what-they-did-last year, right now Heisman list
Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford: Hottest skill player in the country. Gerhart has Stanford in the Rose Bowl conversation after running for 178 yards against USC.
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