'Dancing with the Stars' at Big East basketball?
PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- Big East commissioner John Marinatto has seen all the chaos models, has read all the potential scenarios on how the Big Ten might expand and what impact it might have on his conference.
He's concerned, to be sure, and actively working on how to best position the Big East to handle a shifting college landscape, but he's not going to say anything to add to the craziness, either.
"To me, sitting in the seat that I (sit in), it's just irresponsible and inappropriate to speculate, and speculate on other people's speculation, to feed into that frenzy," said Marinatto, still in his first year as Big East commissioner and addressing the league's coaches and athletic directors at their annual spring meetings.
Marinatto said it's important not to confuse silence with inaction -- for instance, he's been busy in meeting with former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, hired as a consultant to the league, throughout this week.
The Big East saw a serious shift in 2004-05, when Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech left for the ACC, and the league added USF, Cincinnati and Louisville in football, expanding to a 16-team league in basketball. Marinatto said the league's success in that new identity has given him a greater confidence as it faces another possible plundering.
"I look at this situation as another threat certainly," he said. "It was be irresponsible not to be concerned about it. We're trying to position ourselves as best we can. In my mind, you always play out what it is you might do, but we certainly can't do that in a public forum. (It would be) even more irresponsible of me to bring in other players to the situation in a public way."
Instead, he'll talk about the Big East's success in its new incarnation, establishing itself as "in most people's mind the best basketball conference in the country," all while juggling dual existences as a 16-team basketball giant and a comparably small eight-team football league.
"It's appropriate for me to talk about the Big East, and since '05, what we've been able to accomplish, how we've positioned the conference to do great things moving forward," he said. "I told our (basketball) coaches that they're my heroes, because as our ambassadors, they've been the best in conveying that message as anyone.
"In the face of what happened in '05, with everyone who is supposedly out there in the expert field, no one thought we'd be able to do what we've done," he said. "Instead, we've been very successful. We've reconstituted, been reborn in many respects, and have become stronger today than we were in the previous 29 years of our existence."
If the Big East were to lose three football schools as it did six years ago, the league's automatic BCS berth might fall into jeopardy, but Marinatto said he has more confidence now than he did in the last round of changes. Nationally elite programs Miami and Virginia Tech are gone, but he thinks the league's parity has made it a better football conference from top to bottom.
"In football, we're so much stronger than we were in '04-05," he said. "Back then, we had schools that when you talked about the Big East and football, you thought about those schools. Now over the past five years we've been reconstituted, six of our eight schools have shared the regular-season championship in football. We've spread it out, and it's much more competitive and even. And we've performed at the level we' need to perform to re-secure the (BCS) automatic berth."