Time for Traghese to look forward

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese took a quick look behind him as he ascended a podium at Big East media day earlier this week.<br><br> The posture suited the embattled boss perfectly, because he's been looking back with regularity the past four months.

While his conference was disintegrating before his eyes, Tranghese went on the defense, attacking Atlantic Coast Commissioner John Swofford and Miami president Donna Shalala.

He pointed fingers at chancellors in the ACC; he pointed fingers at anybody who seemingly crossed him.

Did it ever occur to Tranghese that the rants served no purpose? Did it occur to him that he looked like a weakened leader, like a man who couldn't keep his cool in the time of crisis?

Several conference athletic directors and presidents have grown tired of Tranghese's act, though they would never say so publicly. He's been reactive, not proactive, and the Big East is all the worst for it.

He spent much of his time Wednesday referring to the past, instead of looking to the future, when discussing his conference's situation.

For the umpteenth time, he made mention of his frustrations with the ACC for luring Big East football powers Miami and Virginia Tech. He also lamented the Big East's failure to admit Penn State to the league in 1981.

You can bet Big East presidents are none to happy with Tranghese's decision to highlight the league's shortcomings, to point out that it failed itself by shooing Joe Paterno and Penn State away two decades ago.

"Isn't it time to look ahead?" one high-ranking athletic official said. "What's past history going to do now?"

Tranghese needs to use public forums to sell his league, to make observers understand that it remains a valuable commodity. Accentuate the positive, not the negative.

As each day goes by and each hurdle presents itself, Tranghese appears to be unwinding. He acknowledged that he's lost weight during this time of duress and acknowledged that he's stayed away from newspapers, as to not consume negative information.

Then, Tranghese did the unthinkable ---- he mentioned stepping down from his job if the Big East football and basketball schools split. Although it's understandable that he would not want to pick sides, it was peculiar that Tranghese would entertain such thoughts.

Point is, when you start making mention of walking away from a job, perhaps that means it's time you did.

Tranghese should have been talking about rolling up his sleeves and rebuilding the conference. He should have been talking about how the Big East presidents are pulling things together.

He needed to remove question marks and doubts ---- not add more.

Surely, all the blame for the league's current state should not fall on his shoulders, but blame can be placed on Tranghese for his public reactions to the ordeal. He spouted off on Swofford the first chance he got in April, then retreated and sent the ACC commissioner a letter of apology.

Tranghese was good for the Big East when he succeeded founder Dave Gavitt in the late 1980s. He was good for the league when he secured Miami and Virginia Tech as football-playing schools in 1991. And, he was good for the league when it negotiated its BCS deal and TV contracts.

There is much to celebrate about Tranghese's tenure. He is recognized as one of the more powerful men in college athletics and has a strong understanding of the complexities of the NCAA.

Tranghese belongs in college athletics; he's too intelligent not to have his fingerprints firmly in place.

But he is proving that he does not belong in a position of power during crisis. The Big East must work from a position of strength, but, right now, its leader is spending too much time looking back.

Joe Bendel

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