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Monday, May 7, 2012
Big East commissioner resigns

By Andrea Adelson and Andy Katz
ESPN.com

Big East commissioner John Marinatto has resigned, leaving the league without a leader as the conference works to find its footing amid a radically shifting landscape.

The conference announced the move in a statement released Monday morning.

"Our recent expansion efforts have stabilized the conference for the long term, and we are likewise well positioned for our very important upcoming television negotiations," Marinatto said in the news release. "As a result, I felt this was the right time to step aside and to let someone else lead us through the next chapter of our evolution."

A source said Marinatto's exit had been building for weeks. The source said the basketball members in the Big East were upset that they had no say in the expansion process.

Big East presidents had also determined they wanted a leader with a different type of personality, vision and creativity, according to league sources. A Big East source said Marinatto knew last week his tenure was ending.

Cincinnati president Gregory Williams, who is heading the search committee for a new commissioner, declined to answer whether Marinatto was forced out by the presidents, referring to the statement from the Big East.

Williams said the league would be looking for someone who "can take the Big East to the next level."

"We're excited about where we are right now," Williams said. "We feel the conference is stronger than it's ever been. We have some great new teams we are bringing in, there's a huge opportunity for us to build, so we're looking for someone who can facilitate that and make that happen."

Marinatto wanted to accept a TV deal a year ago but was shot down by a 12-4 vote with Georgetown and Pittsburgh leading the charge not to accept.

Joseph Bailey, a recruiting firm executive who has in the past held positions as CEO of the Miami Dolphins and administrative VP of the Dallas Cowboys, will assume the commissioner's post on an interim basis while a search is conducted, the conference said.

"Joe is a proven leader who will do a terrific job guiding the conference through this time of transition," said Judy Genshaft, South Florida president and chair of the Big East, in the statement. "His experience as a manager and his knowledge of the sports industry make Joe uniquely qualified."

Two logical candidates to replace Marinatto permanently, according to sources, are Nick Carparelli, the Big East's senior associate commissioner, and Tim Pernetti, Rutgers athletics director, who spoke with the conference when the job was last open. The sources said Big East officials will strongly consider a candidate who has a deep and intelligent understanding of television contracts and who has presence and strong opinion in dealings with BCS leaders who are helping to determine structure and revenue sharing of the next football postseason system.

Marinatto became Big East commissioner in July 2009, succeeding Mike Tranghese, who said his successor "inherited a very, very difficult situation."

"I said that when I left that's one of the reasons why I did leave," Tranghese told The Associated Press on Monday. "The conference was susceptible to be raided."

"When something goes wrong, the person in that chair is the one to take the hit."

Since Tranghese's retirement, the league has lost three prominent members -- Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia -- and perhaps its spot as one of the top-tier conferences in the country.

CBSSports.com has reported Marinatto was asked to resign Sunday night.

John Marinatto
John Marinatto became Big East commissioner in July 2009, succeeding Mike Tranghese. A source told ESPN.com his exit had been building for weeks.

"I know I speak for the entire conference when I express my sincere gratitude to John for his leadership and dedicated years of service," Genshaft said. "John helped build the Big East into what it is today, and played a critical role in our successful expansion efforts, and for all of that we thank him."

The Big East seemed to be in good shape just one year ago. The league added TCU, one of the top non-AQ programs in the country, and was looking to expand further. But dominoes fell in other conferences, and Pitt and Syracuse decided to jump to the ACC in September, destabilizing the conference.

Other Big East schools then began to scramble in attempts to find other homes. After Missouri and Texas A&M decided to move to the SEC, the Big 12 turned to TCU -- which never played a down as a Big East member -- and West Virginia.

That led to dueling lawsuits between West Virginia and the Big East -- the Mountaineers sued to get out of the required 27-month waiting period before exiting. The Big East filed its own suit to keep West Virginia in the league.

A financial settlement was reached, and the Big East was left scrambling for an eighth member for 2012. Temple was added at the last minute. Meanwhile, Boise State and San Diego State had also been added as football-only members, along with SMU, Central Florida, Houston and Memphis for 2013. Navy is set to join in 2015.

In addition, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich was a close confident of Marinatto and his pending departure has pushed the Cardinals to further consider the Big 12 if they can get an invitation from the current 10-team league, a source said.

"You're never surprised in our business about things, but I would be less than honest to say I saw this coming," said Bill Bradshaw, Temple's athletic director. "Yes, in our business you're never surprised. But John's a first-class individual, straightforward. A good man. High integrity. A nice person. Whenever someone resigns, it's something you reflect."

Also, Connecticut is known to have coveted a move to the ACC.

But Huskies athletic director Warde Manuel said he was shocked to learn of Marinatto's resignation Monday, and that it would not affect his school's affiliation with the Big East.

"Our relationship is with the conference, and we'll look forward to working with the leadership in the conference to move forward," Manuel said.

Connecticut provided Marinatto with some of the conference's biggest moments during his tenure, winning national championships in men's basketball in 2011 and in women's basketball in 2009 and 2010.

Manuel said Monday that UConn has no current plans to leave.

"I'm happy in the Big East," he said. "That's where we're going to stay and compete and do what we do."

Multiple industry sources said that one of the reasons the Mountain West Conference didn't expand beyond 10 football members with the addition of San Jose State and Utah State was in case Boise State wanted to return.

Boise State is slated to put its other sports in the WAC in 2013. But with the WAC facing a decline in membership, the Broncos are looking at the Big West, where the Aztecs' non-football teams will play, mulitple sources have said.

Marinatto had come under increasing fire for not doing enough to keep the league from falling apart. While those additions have kept the league viable, without its flagship schools, the Big East has been left with a major perception problem.

With the BCS headed for major changes in the next postseason cycle, it remains unclear whether the Big East will be among the top conferences when it comes to revenue distribution from BCS money.

Automatic qualifying status is already gone, which many believe could have a major impact on the Big East and the addition of new members Boise State and San Diego State.

But league sources say they believe the schools will play if the leadership negotiates a strong enough television deal. The conference is set to begin negotiating a new television deal in September.

While the Big East is in line for a significant bump in TV revenue, it remains unclear just how big the boost will be with the newest additions. Few people in the industry expect the Big East to garner what the ACC has gotten, for example. One concept that some Big East members believe should occur is the "granting of television rights" for 10 or 12 years, which has proven to be a more effective way to limit departures than high exit fees, sources said.

The Big East has its spring meetings set to begin May 21 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The conference also announced that as part of an effort to maximize its media rights and branding, it had retained The Boston Consulting Group to review its organizational design and structure.

Information from ESPN's Joe Schad and The Associated Press was used in this report.