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Big East Football And The Fall Of John Marinatto

John Marinatto is out as commissioner.
John Marinatto is out as commissioner.

In somewhat surprising news, Big East commissioner John Marinatto resigned today as the big man in Providence after holding the position since November of 2008. A Providence man through and through, Marinatto was a true "Big East" guy and seemed to be a clear choice by the league after Mike Tranghese left the post.

But the divide between football and basketball has always been in the conference from the day the Big East began sponsoring football. Dave Gavitt couldn't do it. Tranghese couldn't do it. And now this divide has claimed Marinatto.

The resignation has once again proved what we all already know - something has to change in the Big East. It is too difficult for a conference like this to exist, where half of the schools want one thing and the other half want another. Recently, that gap has been growing and Marinatto was unable to stop it. Now he's gone and the Big East is left at a critical juncture without a leader.

The divide was never more apparent than during the discussion over the television contract, which the Big East is scheduled to begin negotiations with ESPN in September. At the spring meetings last year when Marinatto had received an offer from ESPN that would give the football schools around $11 million each per year, the idea was quickly shut down, partially because the schools could not agree on how to divide the money:

One of the biggest stumbling points has been how the television money would be divided among the basketball and football schools. Last year, at the spring meetings in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., one proposal suggested a 75/25 split -- 75 percent of the money going to football schools and 25 percent going to basketball schools. One athletic director at a basketball school raised his hand and wondered why the numbers were not flipped, since hoops is the reason the Big East exists in the first place.

You can imagine how that went over in the room.

It's because of reasons like this that caused Pitt and Syracuse to leave the Big East and in the end, it was part of the reason Marinatto is out. The Big East was founded on the notion of becoming a powerhouse basketball league and ever since football became an issue, problems were bound to arise. Even the casual college fan could tell you that football drives the bus in college athletics. And any casual fan can also tell you that the conference hasn't been all that dominant on the gridiron. Not only were there other problems such as finding quality schools to join the conference, there was (and is) a huge perception issue.

Is all of it Marinatto's fault? Not fully, but to a degree, he is only carrying out what the school presidents and chancellors are telling him. However, like the quarterback on a football team or the star on a basketball team, when something goes wrong, the head guy is the first to receive blame.

So where does the Big East go from here? Who knows. But if the league wants to stay as a "Power 6" league, it has to find a person who understands the value of football and can peacefully bridge the two sides together.

And that clearly isn't an easy task.

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