I haven't touched too much on Big East expansion lately. Greg's mentioned it and with Pitt on their way out, I've gotta say my interest is waning. Fast. That said, I love John Marinatto bashing as much as the next guy and man, is he taking some heat right now.
The latest indication of the job Marinatto's done is in one of those extremely scientific ESPN SportsNation polls. Sure, these polls aren't taken too seriously by most of the people voting (myself included), but I still found it pretty amusing that as of last night, 85% of respondents grade old Johnny at either a D or an F.
Unlike many, I won't kill Marinatto for the recent additions he's made. I actually think expanding the geographic reach of the conference while busting into some pretty big markets is about as good as he could have done. There's a bit of a sacrifice being made in some areas (i.e. Memphis football the latest hilarity), but to add Boise State's football program was definitely a coup.
Problem is, Marinatto's made some mistakes along the way that can't be ignored.The biggest issue I had with him was his insistence on dragging his feet so much. The Big East had talked for years about expansion, but never got anything done. For all of the other conference members who have serious beef with Pitt and Syracuse, I've still yet to hear a good defense for Marinatto not acting more swiftly. I've said over and over that both schools had to do what was in their best interest and with the life support status of the conference, I strongly doubt other programs would have turned down invites from other AQ leagues.
What's also conveniently left out when the Pitt bashing begins is that the university reportedly even forewarned Marinatto of their intentions if steps weren't made to ensure the stability of the conference.
There's also the fact that he couldn't even get TCU to stay long enough to play a single game. I always argued that the Big 12 was a far better fit for the Horned Frogs, so it's not surprising they ended up there. But as the commish, the buck has to stop somewhere when it comes to dishing out blame, and Marinatto has to take some of the heat for TCU's bolting practically before their logo was even added to the Big East letterhead.
But, briefly, back to Marinatto's latest plan for world domination. He's seemingly pinning his hopes on the fact that by picking up schools in big markets, that it will hopefully land a massive TV contract. In theory, that might sound like a fine plan, but one thing that has to be taken into account is how much those big markets even care about the respective schools. Does Houston with its three pro franchises care about the Cougars? How about Dallas' relationship with SMU? I don't live in those areas, so I'm not exactly the best person to gauge that sort of thing. But a big TV market is only as good as the number of viewers games can attract. And whether or not Dallas will watch an SMU-South Florida game is a bit of an unknown variable.
Marinatto seems like a swell enough guy. The type of guy you'd sit down and watch a game with. But when it comes to running a major conference, he may be a bit in over his head.