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John Marinatto Wasn't The Problem For the Big East, But He Symbolized It

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In the rush to eulogize the John Marinatto era for the Big East conference there is an understandable angle to play with it all. It's fashionable and easy to hang the problems of the last three years around the neck of John Marinatto. It's easy and its wrong. Yes he did a terrible job of keeping the league he took over, more or less whole. He was out of touch with the situation on the ground to an almost comedic extent famously being told of Pitt's and Syracuse's departures while in his suite at a game. But the problem was never John Marinatto, it was assuming that someone like John Marinatto could ever solve the problems that have been starting the conference in the face basically from the minute that Mike Tranghesse spearheaded the founding of the conference as a Football playing entity.

The primary problem facing the Big East today is the same one that sprang up the moment Football schools were brought into the conference. Instantly there was a divide between the Football schools and the Basketball schools. The primary job of the Big East commissioner for the last 20 years as been to prevent the gap from getting bigger. In that time there have been two commissioners Mike Tranghese and John Marinatto. Both of them failed. This anecdote from the debate about the distribution of TV money perfectly sums of the problem. (emphases added)

One of the biggest stumbling points has been how the television money would be divided among the basketball and football schools. Last year, at the spring meetings in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., one proposal suggested a 75/25 split -- 75 percent of the money going to football schools, and 25 percent going to basketball schools. One athletic director at a basketball school raised his hand and wondered why the numbers were not flipped, since hoops is the reason the Big East exists in the first place.

That's the issue. There is a small cadre of original members for whom it is perpetually 1985 where the solutions to any problem can be solved by taking the considerations of the Baskebtall playing schools to be sacrosanct. Now it is in the nature of any AD to look after the interests of their schools above those of other schools. But at some point the reality of the situations has to set in.

For Football playing schools they are surrounded by reality. There is a constant bombardment as to what it takes to survive and thrive in this Darwinist world of college football. On an objective scale the budgets and revenues of the Big East's Football playing schools are near the bottom of the barrel.

Part of that is the TV deal which pays about 8 million per year to Football schools. That's about 10 million dollars less than the BCS average which hovers around 18 million across the five other BCS leagues. The approximately 4 million in compensation to the Basketball schools places them among the richest in terms of TV revenue in the sport. And that's the problem. Within the conference there are two groups. One group sees the TV contract and sees a problem that has to be fixed, the other sees nothing wrong. Now take that issue and apply it to anything you can think of and that's the situation which faces anyone who inherits the job.

Marinatto was a bad choice because he was of the conference. He spent his entire adult life associated with either the Big East or with the Providence Friars. As such he was unable to see the chasm between Football and Basketball schools for what it was, an untenable and unsustainable situation.

The problem of John Marinatto was that he never had any chance to guide the Big East towards a path of stability and sustainability because he had never known it is his professional career. He was a Big East guy to the core and the Big East has never been anything but a riling core of conflicting philosophies and ideologies. And that was before adding any Football playing schools. For whatever reason he felt it was his job to keep the peace above all else because that is what the men who had the job before him had tried to do. Asking Marinatto to fashion a new vision for the conference was the biggest mistake the Big East ever made, and it will probably be the last. There is simply no way the Big East can go back to the well again. They will have to make an outside hire and that outside hire will reach the same conclusion that observers have been making for years. The Big East is really two conferences functioning as one. It's a bloody nightmare and it will have to be blown up for good. That isn't John Marinatto's problem, but it is the problem he has come to symbolize for better or worse.

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