In a move that was both equal parts shocking, and not shocking at all, news broke this morning that John Marinatto had resigned as Big East commissioner, effective immediately. The news was first reported by CBS Sports Brett McMurphy, and a later report by McMurphy confirmed that Marinatto was asked to step down by the Presidents of Big East conference schools.
Later, Marinatto released a statement, saying in part:
“I have been associated with this league for my entire adult life and have had the tremendous honor of serving as its Commissioner since 2009,” Marinatto said. “Our recent expansion efforts have stabilized the Conference for the long term and we are likewise well positioned for our very important upcoming television negotiations.
“As a result, I felt this was the right time to step aside and to let someone else lead us through the next chapter of our evolution. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish and would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank both our membership and my staff for their unwavering encouragement, support and loyalty — especially during this past year. I am extremely confident about the future of this league that I love very much.”
First, to the “non-shocking” part of the news: The simple truth is that at some point Marinatto had to go. In an era where conference commissioners have proven to be the smartest men in the room, and the most powerful men in college sports, Marinatto has seemingly lacked the guile to keep up with his competitors for the past several years. While conferences like the Pac-12, ACC and SEC have continued to evolve and continued to strengthen themselves with expansion, it seemed like no matter what happened, the Big East was always one step behind. The conference was blind-sided by the loss of long-time members Pitt and Syracuse last fall, and then later on West Virginia and TCU both left for the Big XII as well.
And really, that was the biggest problem with Marinatto’s reign as commissioner of the conference. Given the current climate of college sports and the seemingly never-ending pursuit of the power conferences to strengthen themselves going forward, the Big East continued to remain reactive instead of proactive. After years of discussing expansion, it was only after the Big XII and ACC had picked the conference clean did they get serious about adding more teams and strengthening themselves. Since the fall, the conference has added Temple, Memphis, SMU, UCF, Houston, Boise State, San Diego State and Navy for varying points in the future. Still, even when that happened, every Big East fan asked the same question: If all that came together in six months, why was there only talk for the six years before that? Everyone knew the end game was 12 teams, so what took so long? Again, college sports have quickly become a cutthroat world, and Marinatto never seemed to have the chops to keep up.
Of course despite Marinatto proving himself to be somewhat inept over the previous couple years, the timing of his resignation couldn’t be much worse, as the conference heads into an uncertain future.
As I write this, conference commissioners are discussing a myriad of different playoff proposals for the immediate future (starting in 2014), and the last thing the Big East needs is to go into those discussions without a voice at the table. Speaking of discussions, they are also ongoing for a new Big East TV contract this summer, a contract that was expected to be lucrative, but now hangs in the balance (By the way, you know what the worst part of this whole mess is? The Big East had the opportunity to ink that new deal at this time last year, but elected to wait a year in hopes of getting a bigger payday. Now, who knows what they’ll get. Heck, who knows who’ll even be negotiating that contract?).
Oh, and one more thing we probably shouldn’t forget either: With Bob Bowlsby recently named the new commissioner of the Big XII, there’s always fear of further expansion in the Midwest and further depletion of the Big East. For months speculation has run rampant that if the Big XII does try and go back to 12 teams, Louisville (currently a Big East member) will be their No. 1 target. Can the Big East really afford to lose another signature program, and their best bet for a long-term football power?
These are all questions that the new commissioner will have to answer, and it makes this writer wonder, who the heck would want this job exactly? As for the candidates, former Miami Dolphins CEO Joseph Bailey III has been named to the interim post, and McMurphy floated out names such as Pac-12 deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg, and Big East officials Nick Carparelli and Tom Odjakjian as possible replacements as well. Former NCAA executive Greg Shaheen is in the mix too, as is Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti and Kit Morris, currently at Nike.
Given the uncertain future ahead, whoever takes this job has plenty of work ahead of them.
For all his opinion, insight and articles on college football, follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.