Big East commissioner John Marinatto stepped down today. It’s only the latest step in the process of the Big East slowly becoming less and less relevant. Although it seems everything in the conference is changing, somethings have remained the same.
The year was 2003. After losing Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami to the ACC, the Big East raided Conference USA to nab Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Marquette and DePaul. Now the Big East will lose West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh and couldn’t even get TCU on the plane to the east coast.
In order to dull the pain, the Big East has extended it’s reach far and wide to get new schools into the fold. First it was Boise State and San Diego State in an attempt to boost a floundering football league. Then the conference grabbed Central Florida, Houston, SMU, Navy, Memphis and Temple.
So where does all this movement put the Big East in the BCS hierarchy?
Well, the thing is, the Big East has been the little brother to the other 5 major conferences for quite some time. At least in football, that is. And really, as we see more and more, that’s what really matters. That is why West Virginia paid $20 million to get the hell out of the conference. That is why TCU reconsidered when the possibility of going to the Big 12 became real. Although ‘Cuse and Pitt. are not football powerhouses (not of late at least) those teams saw football stability in the ACC, something that the Big East is clearly lacking.
The Big East is nothing short of a randomly selected group of teams from all across the country. Now not only does the Big East still look like a lackluster football conference, but it also has no geographic identity.
Marinatto had been the Big East’s commissioner since July 1, 2009, when he took over for Mike Tranghese (1990-2009). He was widely credited for being the key to saving the league in 2003. The Conference USA teams that ended up in the conference post-2003 have had mixed results. Louisville and Cincinnati are natural fits and have continued to flourish. South Florida has enjoyed flashes of relevance. But the Bulls value is in keeping the Big East on the radar in the football hotbed of Florida. Then there is Marquette and DePaul.
The loss of the “East” in the “Big East” really did start in 2003 with Marquette and DePaul joining. Marquette has continued to put some good hoops teams on the court. DePaul on the other hand is a perennial bottom feeder. DePaul and Marquette, in theory, do bring you the Chicago TV market. However, it’s debatable if those teams have been net positive or net negative.
League officals have been turned into head hunters. There will be winners, and there will be losers.
The WAC officially fell apart last week as Texas State, Utah State, San Jose State and Texas-San Antonio found new homes. That left Idaho and New Mexico State as the only two former WAC football schools. It looks like Idaho will be forced back to the 1-AA ranks. Undoubtedly there will be more program causalities as we get deeper into this new era of conference realignment.
Has the Big East done enough to stay at the BCS dinner table? The BCS format as we know it should be changing in 2014. At that time the Big East, which has been one of the power conferences, could illegitimately be on the outside looking in.