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Big East calm as potential conference realignment storm brews

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, 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 has been busy in meetings 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 would 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 what he considers "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."

The league's coaches said the topic was discussed during Monday's meetings but that they weren't discussed as much as officiating or other normal issues that come up at the league's annual gathering.

"I wouldn't say it was the dominant thing. It did not dominate the conversation," said new DePaul men's basketball coach Oliver Purnell, who was in the ACC during the last realignment.

Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.

Big East calm as potential conference realignment storm brews 05/24/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 24, 2010 9:14pm]
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