Prior to the start of the Big East Tournament on Tuesday, the New York Times ran an article discussing the impending changes to the conference, specifically the basketball side. It goes through a recent interview with former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese. In the interview, Tranghese discussed how the conference failed to understand early on the importance of college football and how the Big East should have made college football a bigger priority:
"I think that people for the most part didn't understand how big and important football was," the former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said in a recent interview. "It really drove the cart."
If the architects of the conference had known then what they know now, what would they have done differently?
Tranghese said: "In hindsight, you say the league had 20-something pretty good years when you look at it, but now with what's going on - you look at in hindsight, I think the question is pretty interesting. I don't know how to answer it."
But Tranghese apparently had all the answers.
Tranghese tried to tell the Big East's university presidents and athletic directors as much as early 1989 when he was Gavitt's assistant. Gavitt thought the conference needed to bring Penn State into the fold. Penn State was an independent at the time, looking for the security of a conference.
The membership voted no, with St. John's, Villanova and Georgetown leading the resistance. At the end of the meeting, Gavitt asked Tranghese what he thought about the decision. "I said, 'We will all rue the day about this decision.' " Tranghese said. "I understood how big football was."
Such a prophet the young Tranghese must have been (I've joked with other Pitt fans that Tranghese is actually Captain Hindsight for those of you who watch South Park).
Here's the thing that gets me.Tranghese was a good commissioner for the Big East. He helped lead the conference through the first raid by the ACC. But saying that he understood how big college football was just comes off as a lie. After all, wasn't it Tranghese who said this?
"The one person I'm going to help is Providence College."
What about Providence describes college football? The Friars haven't fielded a team since probably before Tranghese attended Providence. It basically confirms what we've known about the Big East brass all along: They don't really care about the football side. They tolerate it like we tolerate West Virginia.
The fact that Tranghese acts like he had all this hindsight at the time is one giant lie. The Big East has had multiple opportunities to show everyone that they actually understood how big college football is. This past round, they may or may not have begun to see it's value. Of course, this was also the same group that thought Villanova playing in a soccer stadium was a good idea for Big East football so who knows. But the point is that this time was too late.
Tranghese should have realized this in 2005. If he cared about college football, he should have strongly recommended to the presidents and athletic directors that Marquette and Depaul should not join. This is nothing against Marquette, who has been a fantastic addition in basketball, but they don't offer anything in football. Neither does Depaul, who has not even been a very good addition in basketball. The Big East still would have been fine with 14 basketball members. There are just so many questionable things that the Big East has done that have ended up as head scratchers.
I've come to realize this more as Pitt prepares to exit the Big East for the ACC. Even though the Big East just doesn't get college football, one thing I will miss is the Big East Tournament. No other conference tournament gets as much media attention and is such a national event like the Big East Tournament. And it makes me sad that Pitt is soon going to be leaving it all behind to play in the
Carolina Invitational ACC Tournament in Greensboro. I wish Pitt could have the best of both worlds - a strong football conference while still playing in the Big East Tournament. Unfortunately, there had to be a sacrifice with the move. At least, though, there will be one more go around at Madison Square Garden next season.