Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 conferences and an occasional contributor.
There was plenty of news that came out of this week’s Big East spring meetings: elimination of the double-bye in the Big East basketball tournament and the approved use of high-definition monitors for football replays (consider me amazed that this wasn’t the norm already), but there was also the underlying issue of the looming Big Ten expansion and how that will affect the Big East.
The most interesting line of the week came from rookie Big East commissioner John Marinatto, who said he is playing the Bud Fox to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s Gordon Gekko (two characters from the 1987 movie Wall Street). “I feel like I’m Bud Fox and he’s Gordon Gekko,” Marinatto said. “He’s always honest and helpful with me. He’s brilliant and creative — just like Gordon Gekko — he knew all the corners to cut. He understands the landscape.” While the quote comes across as mostly complimentary towards Delany, it also underlines the fact that this is a high-stakes business situation, and begs the question as to whether greed is indeed good for the NCAA and its conferences.
But, despite Marinatto’s respect for his sparring partner here, he also made it clear that with all that is at stake for the Big East, they are not just sitting idly by and waiting to see what the Big Ten is going to do. When the Big East lost Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC in 2004 and 2005, the Big East was able to respond by adding all-sport schools Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida and basketball-only schools DePaul and Marquette to create a new and improved version of the conference, one that morphed into arguably the best basketball conference in the country. But with the Big Ten rumored to be interested in current Big East schools like Connecticut, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse (amongst others), once again they are on the defensive. “I look at this situation as another threat certainly,” Marinatto said. “It would be irresponsible not to be concerned about it. We’re trying to position ourselves as best we can. In my mind, you always play out what it is you might do, but we certainly can’t do that in a public forum.”
Fortunately, we, and others, can do that in a public forum. The New York Post has reported that representatives from the Big East have already had discussions with Atlantic 10 schools like Dayton, Duquesne, St. Joseph’s and Xavier about possibly joining up in the event of the Big East losing teams to the Big Ten. There has been speculation elsewhere about schools like Buffalo, Central Florida and East Carolina as all-sport replacements in case of the potential loss of, for instance, Pitt and Syracuse. And there is even continued talk about the Big East laying down an ultimatum to Notre Dame: join us in football or leave us in the rest of your sports. The thinking here is that even if Notre Dame decides to leave and is left without a home for its non-football sports, it would be more apt to join up with the Big Ten, perhaps saving schools like Syracuse and Pitt from its elongated reach.