One-on-one with Mike Tranghese, Part II

January, 7, 2009
1/07/09
5:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

This is Part II of my conversation with outgoing Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese. To read Part I, click here.

I know you've made improving the Big East bowl lineup a top priority and that those discussions have begun. Anything you can tell us about how that's going so far?

Mike Tranghese: I'm encouraged, but I know my bowl partners would have a stroke if I talked about it. I've been trying to do a lot of work before I leave and (incoming commissioner) John Marinatto is on board with me. I think the bowl people are a lot more excited about us than they were five years ago. We didn't have much to offer then because we didn't even know who was going to be in our league when we were talking the last time. I think the bowl stuff isn't going to break for a while. We're trying to push the envelope as hard and as quick as we can, and we'll find out before I leave, I think, where we stand.

Is there a desire to eliminate the rotation-style bowl agreements like you have with the Gator/Sun bowl?

MT: I don't know that we want a hybrid situation. On the other hand, we have two great partners in both the Gator Bowl and the Sun Bowl, and I think our priority would be to retain both of them. That's what we're trying to do. We've been a partner with the Gator for a long time, and this was our first cycle with the Sun Bowl people and they've been terrific. I think our membership has enjoyed going out there and playing, and enjoy playing the Pac-10. It's a great slot, on December 31st, on CBS, so it's great exposure. I think we'd like to retain both of those. The trick is how do you do it?

You talked earlier about the importance of good coaching hires. I wonder if you've had a chance to meet Doug Marrone at Syracuse yet.

MT: I haven't, only because I'm not going to be here. Normally by now I would have gone and seen Doug like I've done in the past, but for me it would be a waste of time because I'm not going to be here. I have talked to (Syracuse athletic director) Daryl (Gross) several times and I know Daryl is excited about hiring Doug. It's an important hire not only for Syracuse but also for our league, because we think Syracuse can be a viable factor for our league. And as the Syracuse program gets better, that helps our league as well.

That was the only coaching change in the league this season, and in-demand coaches like Brian Kelly and Randy Edsall stayed put. How good was that to see?

MT: I think the fact that we've had a lot of stability and held onto coaches is a good thing. But I always tell our ADs, 'You've got to be prepared. If a guy walks out, you can't be fiddling. You've got to know where you're going.' We talk about that all the time. I think our ADs know what direction they would go in if a coach left. That's all you can do. You can't force people to stay. When I hear the names of our coaches being bandied about by big-name programs, I take it as a compliment. If no one wanted our coaches, I'd start to worry.

Kelly in particular made a point to say Cincinnati shouldn't be a stepping-stone program. People have viewed some Big East programs as such in the past. Do you think that is starting to change?

MT: It depends on what's a stepping stone? I don't think our people are going to get up and leave for a lot of programs. But you know, there is an elite list of schools -- and you know who they are -- that when those programs open, people are going to be interested in them. I think our goal is to make our programs so good that it's going to take a very elite program for our coaches to think about leaving.

You made a change to your officiating program last year by bringing in NFL referee Terry McAulay to oversee your officials. How did that go this year?

MT: I thought it was great. I think people are ecstatic about it, and I'm personally ecstatic with Terry. I think with the criticism we had last year -- and some of it was, I thought, over the top -- we just felt we had to be very aggressive. Under Terry's leadership, I thought that he implemented a program that brought in even more accountability than ever. He has an unbelievable passion for it and understands the game. His communication skills not only with officials but with our coaches was great. Were all our games officiated perfectly? No. But I thought the evaluation system and everything was in place. I think our officials reacted very favorably to having Terry as well.

Finally, what are you going to do after you leave office this summer?

MT: I'm looking to work. I'm trying to find something to do. I'm not looking for a full-time job, but I'm looking, whether that's teaching, consulting, marketing, television or whatever. I feel good, I have a lot of energy still. It's just time for me to stop running all over the place and let somebody else have this job. I've had it for 19 years and I've been here for 30. Change is good for them and good for me. I'm just trying to find some other things to do, to be candid.

And I imagine you'll be a good resource for John Marinatto, should he need that.

MT: That goes without saying. (Former Big East commissioner) Dave (Gavitt) was that for me, and I'll be that for John. That'll never change. Once you're a Big East person, you'll always be one.

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