Big East Close to Naming Commissioner

Could the Big East Conference have a new commissioner by Tuesday?

Longtime college sportswriter Mark Blaudschun reported Monday night on his website, ajersey.com, that the Big East "apparently is ready to introduce its new commissioner." The former Boston Globe reporter wrote that, according to sources, the Big East presidents will conduct a conference call Tuesday morning to "give final approval of the selection" but the final candidate was not named in the report.

Contacted late Monday night, associate commissioner John Paquette was asked about a possible announcement on Tuesday.

"Possible but we are not commenting," Paquette responded by text. Paquette, associate commissioner for communications, would not say if the presidents are holding a conference call.

Another source told UConnPlaybook.com that if the announcement doesn't come Tuesday it could follow in the next day or two.

Big East officials, including interim commissioner Joe Bailey, have kept a tight lid on the search process since John Marinatto resigned under pressure in May. At Big East football media day in Newport, R.I., on July 31, Bailey said the list of candidates had been cut to five.

One Internet report Monday indicated Jay Bilas, former Duke basketball player, television analyst and attorney, is under "serious consideration." A Big East official told UConnPlaybook.com last month that Bilas was not on the list, despite a recommendation from Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. Blaudschun wrote Monday that Bilas' candidacy was "regarded as a long shot."

Dennis Dodd, football columnist for CBSSports.com, reported Monday that the names of Major League Soccer president Mark Abbott and UNLV AD Jim Livengood have surfaced in the search. That report also indicated that the only candidate known to interview with the Big East search firm is former New England Patriots' general counsel Jack Mula.

Abbott lives in Greenwich, Conn., with his wife and two children. He is the architect of the MLS business plan. The soccer league has enjoyed enormous growth in recent years.

Other names consistently linked to the position have included Nick Carparelli, Big East senior associate commissioner for football and marketing; Kevin Weiberg, Pac-12 deputy commissioner; Tim Brosnan, Major League Baseball executive vice president; Greg Shaheen, former NCAA executive; and Rich Gotham, Boston Celtics president.

According to Blaudschun none of those have emerged as the top candidate.

Another name surfacing late Monday night in rumors was Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. But ESPN.com reported Swarbrick is not the final choice. "I am not and never have been a candidate for the job," Swarbrick said in an email to ESPN.com

The Big East has made it known it is searching for an innovative, "out-of-the-box" candidate, perhaps along the lines of Larry Scott at the Pac-12. Scott came from the world of tennis without any college athletics background.

At UConn football media day Friday, I asked coach Paul Pasqualoni what type of qualifications the new commissioner should have.

"What I would really be excited about is an individual who has extremely high energy and a lot of passion for football – me being selfish," Pasqualoni said. "We have a very competitive arena here with the ACC, SEC, Pac-10 and Big 12, Big Ten. You have to compete in all areas. You have to be progressive and do what's absolutely best for our conference and our conference champion in the perception of where the Big East is in Division I football.

"I think it's a 24/7 job. And I think you've got to be very competitive. The coaches and players in our conference have to compete with everybody in the country and I think our commissioner has to compete with everybody in the country.

"I think what is going to appeal to the coaches is someone that they know is going to work relentlessly and stay ahead of the curve on everything that's going on. The norm has changed right now. They need to do what needs to be done. And I think it would be extremely beneficial if this individual knew the players in the game and that this commissioner is a colleague who is out there fighting for us."

The Big East took a big step and announced Monday it has hired a sports media firm, led by one of the consultants who negotiated the Pac-12's $3 billion deal, to work on its upcoming media rights negotiations.

The conference has hired Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures as its lead negotiator. Co-founder Chris Bevilacqua helped the Pac-12 land its landmark 12-year television deal last season and launch its own network. He also negotiated the Rose Bowl's most recent television contract with ESPN, a deal worth $80 million annually for 12 years.

The Big East will begin a 60-day exclusive negotiating window with ESPN on Sept. 1. The conference is hoping to net its football members close to $10 million per year in revenue from a new deal.

Material from The Associated Press was included in this story.


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