Busy Agenda at Big East Meetings

With all the membership changes in recent months, the Big East Conference might be in the market for a new logo. May we suggest something featuring that little Dutch boy from the famous fable?

You remember him, don't you?

The little Dutch boy discovered a leak in the dike and did the only thing he could think of. He stuck his finger in the hole and stopped the dike from leaking. He was hailed as heroic, but the little Dutch boy was stuck. He couldn't leave or the leak would start again. Eventually another leak sprang in the dike, and then another.

The person charged with setting the agenda for the Big East conference meetings this week in Ponte Vedra Beachj, Fla., must have felt a bit like the little Dutch boy. A new leak springs up for the Big East just about every day.

COMMENTARY

With so many situations threatening the Big East, how does it set priorities? How does it survive? Conference administrators, athletic directors, and coaches from the current and future Big East schools sit down Monday through Wednesday to talk everything through.

Not sure that is enough time, but they always have their cell phones – and they should be busy the next few months.

West Virginia is gone to the Big 12. Syracuse and Pittsburgh won't be in attendance either. They are at the ACC table now – even though they will remain in the Big East standings this season. No need for spies in this house. That bylaw has been a no brainer since the meetings of 2003 when the ACC ran its first raid on the Big East.

Perhaps the first order of business for every school will be a handshake and introduction with interim commissioner Joe Bailey, brought in two weeks ago to bridge the gap between John Marinatto and a new commissioner. Marinatto announced his "resignation" on May 7. In reality, he was told to walk the plank by the presidents of the conference schools.

The presidents continue to make bad decisions based on panic and greed. The timing of this move couldn't have been worse. One columnist said the Big East has been transformed into the Big Mess. How true.

If the presidents wanted to initiate such a power play against Marinatto, they should have done it last fall. That's what the Big 12 did to Dan Beebe. The Big 12 brought in Chuck Neinas, a former commissioner and perhaps the top consultant in college athletics, to serve in an interim position. Two years ago the Big 12 was on the verge of being ripped apart. Now, thanks in large part to Neinas, it is one of the four major power conferences and the SEC is making sure the Big 12 will have great future success.

Back to the "Big Mess." With Temple, Boise State, San Diego State, SMU, Houston, Central Florida, Memphis and Navy joining the ever-growing Big East circle, what needs to be discussed at these meetings?

Start with this list:

- The search for a new commissioner

- Approving and endorsing a BCS playoff model

- Preparing for the negotiations with the television networks (pretty important) this fall

- The lawsuit Pittsburgh filed against the Big East

- Keeping Boise State happy about its future membership

- Persuading Louisville and Connecticut to stay in the Big East

- Conference stability (see above)

- The partnership with Notre Dame

- Future divisional lineup in football

- Discussing the implications of the new championship bowl game between the Big 12 and the SEC champions

That last item is a new addition. Those two strong conferences made the announcement of their postseason bowl game Friday and it immediately sent shock waves through college athletics. As Big East associate commissioner John Paquette put it, every conference was left to digest what it means for everyone.

But the merger creates the biggest concerns for the Big East and the ACC. Following Friday's announcement, Neinas suggested the Big East and ACC need to "find a bowl."

Forget this newly created New Year's Day bowl game itself. It's likely the champions from those conferences will never meet because of their involvement in a future playoff system.

It's the symbolism that is important. At the very least, this Big 12/SEC partnership is a power move that puts those two conferences in a new world order along with the Big 10 and Pac-12, who share the Rose Bowl. That's very impressive and very intimidating to the remaining conferences.

It's possible the merger was the first step toward the dawn of the Super Conference era. If that's the case, the ACC is in trouble. And if the ACC is in trouble, what in the world does that mean for the Big East – and Connecticut?

For UConn, it could be very bad news. Or maybe it is the prompt the Huskies needed to depart the Big East. That's a sad thought to loyalists, but this is a fight for survival.

Florida State had already been flirting with the Big 12. Friday's announcement must make the Big 12 look even more appealing to the Seminoles. The potential departure of FSU to the Big 12 would be a serious blow to the ACC. But ACC commissioner John Swofford is a fighter. The Big East knows that. So don't be surprised if Swofford has been reaching out to Notre Dame. The Irish would solve the problems of the ACC.

Then, just to keep the numbers right, maybe Louisville goes to the Big 12 and the ACC takes another look at UConn and Rutgers. Anything is possible in this scramble.

And all of this is happening on the heels of the latest BCS meetings where significant movement toward a playoff – starting in 2014 – started to take shape. Marinatto was the Big East representative at those meetings.

BCS executive director Bill Hancock has said the 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame's athletic director were charged to present the options for a four-team playoff to their conferences at their spring meetings. Then another meeting will be held in June with the hope of agreeing on a final playoff play. That could go to university presidents for potential approval by July 4.

Marinatto won't be at the Big East meetings this week. Bailey has said the search for a new commissioner will take three to four months. So who keeps the Big East up to speed? Who presents the options to the conference membership at these meetings? Who represents the Big East at that June meeting? How does the Big East keep its seat at the table – or has the Big East been kicked out of the room already?

In Bailey's first teleconference call with the media on May 9, he said the Big East "will not lose its influence in those [BCS] decisions." Then he said "a lot of those things are going to be discussed" at the conference meetings. And in the interim, the Big 12 and SEC acted in a way that weakened the Big East even more.

Paquette said Louisville AD Tom Jurich was in on some of the BCS meetings as the Big East's AD rep. But there are unconfirmed reports that Jurich has told the Big East that the Cardinals are looking to get out of the conference. Isn't that a conflict?

There is no doubt Nick Carparelli, senior associate commissioner for football, can bring an informative BCS update to the Big East this week. Carparelli is a respected and competent football administrator and has represented the Big East well for years. In fact, he should be considered a top runner in the search for a new Big East commissioner. The conference founded on basketball tradition needs football leadership to survive the recent shifting of the collegiate landscape.

Bailey may be able to help. That is less certain. But the real problem is that the Big East went into these meetings not having an appointed voice in the BCS discussion. That can't help. Paquette said it's safe to assume that BCS representation will be discussed at the meetings.

Maybe – just maybe – that should be the first leak that gets plugged by the little Big East boy. The other leaks are on the verge of starting a flood.


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