Was the Big East ready for the latest raid?
The Big East Conference is one of the most storied conferences in the history of college basketball. Aside from the six national champions the conference has produced, the conference produced a record 11 schools in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, breaking their own record of seven from 2010.
Despite the NCAA records and tough competitiveness of Big East Basketball, consistently being tabbed as the best or toughest conference by many national media outlets, their always seems to be a level of uncertainty surrounding the conference.
Ever since the initial ACC raid of 2003, the conference administration has done nothing to settle the uneasiness and prevent another raid. The Big East may be the easiest conference to get out of, in terms of an exit fee, as they charge $5 million to leave the conference, compared to $20 million to leave the ACC.
Commissioner John Marinatto blames the unusual makeup of the league as the reason for the attempted raids.
“We’re unusual in the fact that our makeup is not the same as other conferences,” Marinatto said. “We have 1-A schools, 1-AA schools, and 1-AAA schools.”
During all the talk of trying to add schools to make football better, there has been no real focus in adding schools that will make the basketball better and replace two basketball powerhouses in Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
They are focusing on adding mid-major football schools to make the conference better, but that’s not going to do anything. Historically, the Big East has struggled competing in football on a national level, producing only two national championships in the 23 year history of the Big East (Miami in 1991 and 2001).
Marinatto admitted to the conference basketball roots that have put the league in national spotlight but schools like Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist aren’t going to cut it.
What’s even more disturbing is the fact that Marinatto didn’t know that adding schools and focusing on realignment was part of his job description.
“This isn’t exactly what I signed up for originally,” Marinatto said. “It was never contemplated as being the thing that you would have to focus all your time on, the last 18 months really since November or December 2010 have been about conference realignment.”
What did Marinatto think he was going to have to do when he accepted the position in 2009? The commissioner’s job is to essentially make the conference better and make the student-athlete’s experience better, but doesn’t that include making the conference more competitive?
The bottom line is that had Marinatto and his staff been on their toes and at the forefront of realignment by having stricter exit fees and on the prowl to add competitive schools from the start, Pittsburgh and Syracuse leaving wouldn’t be the center of everyone’s focus, and instead would be what Marinatto wants to do, and that is “make the climate better for our student-athletes.”
Tim LeCras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.