John Marinatto has resigned from his position as Commissioner of the Big East Conference, apparently encouraged by the college presidents to leave.
Now there’s a move sure to undermine any remaining confidence in the conference’s future. The person charged with bringing order to a chaotic situation is dismissed half way through the process? Why would the college presidents want to blow everything up when the conference appeared to be making progress despite all the challenges facing Marinatto?
The Commissioner he succeeded gave credit Monday to Marinatto for saving the league after Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College departed in 2005. Mike Tranghese told the New York Times that while he was focused on dissolving the conference, Marinatto was developing a plan to save it. And despite many obstacles, he had sealed deals with eight new universities during his most recent round of conference realignment.
One distinct possibility is that the time may have finally arrived for a split between the football and basketball schools. The Big East has always been dominated by basketball schools in a landscape owned by college football, making it impossible for the league to position itself among the football power conferences. The football schools have little in common with the basketball schools anyway. Why hang with schools who are holding them back?
The college presidents may have finally concluded that the marriage was never a good arrangement and that the relationship is counter productive and not worth saving. Bring in some fresh thinking, hire someone not committed to the past.
One also has to suspect that Notre Dame played a key role in the decision to let Marinatto go. The Big East has rarely made a decision without the South Bend school asserting its influence. Maybe Notre Dame has decided that its arrangement with the conference is no longer tenable. A new commissioner would be free of the Notre Dame handcuffs.
The inescapable question is how his departure will affect Louisville, which has played an active role in helping to stabilize the conference. Marinatto no doubt played a role in getting UofL into the Big East and had to be appreciative of Tom Jurich’s commitment. Louisville may have even decided wait for an opportunity to join the Big 12 to help preserve the current conference.
But U of L deserves better than what is happening with the Big East.
The best possible situation would be that the rumors are true, that UofL, along with Brigham Young, is about to receive an invitation to join the Big 12. And possibly Notre Dame would join the Big 12 for all other sports than football.
That would be the most optimistic scenario in light of Marinatto’s resignation.