This rant is brought to you by the University of Pittsburgh, in partnership with Syracuse University. Oh, and the letter 'L,' for "leaving the Big East high and dry," and the number 59, as in the number of combined years Pitt and Syracuse have been members of the Big East conference.
News broke on Friday night that Pitt and Cuse wanted out of the Big East. On Sunday, it was made an official defection. That, in and of itself, is a sad thing. Syracuse was a founding member of the conference back in 1979, while Pitt joined three years later.
Okay, enough waxing poetic about the Orange-tinted Panther in the room. So much of this is a downright disgrace it's not even funny.
First of all, I hate conference realignment as it has occurred in the last year or so. Reason number 1 is that it is driven by college football. This sport, while exciting from time to time, is also the sport with the stupidest postseason format ever created, the insufferable BCS. I appreciate a good college football game, but come January (or, really, come November, when college basketball starts), you couldn't pay me to watch the scintillating and meaningless matchup between North Texas and IPFW in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl (or whatever).
Reason Number 2 is that the teams that are moving around are taking tradition and throwing it down a well with its arms and legs bound. Call me a sucker for tradition, but I like old rivalries. They add a special juiciness to college football and basketball that often makes the big games must-see TV. The fact that more often than not the rivals are in the same conference makes it better because then there are conference standings implications.
"Screw Tradition- We Want Money!" is the battle cry now. It is extremely sad and ironic that college football is driving all of the realignment because it is the sport perhaps most affected by tradition.
You can add common sense in there as well, because Texas and Oklahoma have been thrown around as targets for the Pac-12, the ACC and everything else under the sun. TCU is set to join the Big East next year despite the fact that they are not even in the Eastern half of the country. Geographically, it's making the landscape of college sports look like a collage a 2nd-grader could make in Art Class.
So, to recap, conference realignment is a) all about money, as it is the sport with the dumbest postseason format driving the bus, while the sport with the best postseason format is being dragged along the highway while tied to the back of said bus by a rope, b) killing tradition, and c) doing away with common sense. I hate conference realignment to begin with.
Which brings me to The Despicable Two.
Follow the jump for more.
Here's the background to the story: back when the conference shifts started, the Big East was looking to secure a new TV deal, as the current deal expires soon. The Pac- 12 had already nailed down a huge deal with Fox, and the Big East was looking to cash in. A deal was offered by ESPN approaching $1 billion dollars (with a B).
The conference turned it down. Guess who was one of the major voices on that winning side?
Pittsburgh (Rutgers, too, but we won't get into that).
Well, guess what? The holding out the conference and John Marinatto did for a potential better deal? All for naught. Marinatto's thinking was that Big East Football was on the rise (you can't secure a basketball-only TV deal for a billion dollars, after all), and therefore he wanted an even richer deal. There has been ZERO evidence that Big East football is truly on the rise, mind you.
The more I think about this, the angrier I get. The storied tradition of Big East Basketball is being jettisoned on the spot, with virtually no warning (story was broken on Friday by Pete Thamel of the New York Times and was made official Sunday). Losing all that tradition is sad and pathetic in and of itself.
What's even more pathetic is John Marinatto, the commissioner of the Big East, NOT EVEN KNOWING ABOUT THIS UNTIL A REPORTER ASKED HIM ABOUT IT IN MARYLAND ON SATURDAY.
How in the world, as commissioner, do you know absolutely NOTHING about this until a reporter brings it up to you, Mr. Marinatto? This is a colossal failure in leadership, one that would make the late Dave Gavitt (the founder of the Big East that passed away a few days ago- may he Rest In Peace) do somersaults in his grave. While Pitt takes the unfortunate credit for being a major voice in the conference's decision to turn down the TV deal, Marinatto takes most of it.
Marinatto may very well end up as the guy who allowed the conference to fall apart. His statement on Saturday that the defections of Syracuse and Pitt will not affect the unity of the conference and that the Big East is "well-positioned for the future and that the events of the last 24 hours will unify our membership" couldn't have been more off-base. This could cause a domino effect that could rip the conference to shreds, and Marinatto is saying it's just a passing shower? What a heinous joke.
Both Pitt and Syracuse AD's praised Marinatto for his "leadership" in the formal news conference. Translation: "thanks for being incompetent so we could take advantage of it and leave you in the dust."
The only good thing to come out of this weekend? Both Pitt and Syracuse lost their football games, Pitt in spectacular choking fashion at Iowa, Syracuse in blowout fashion at USC.
What will happen to the conference and its members is anyone's guess. Tons of rumors are flying around the cyber universe, and I won't get into them for lack of time to sort all of them out right now. But here's one that matters- Rutgers and UConn are rumored to be the next teams to defect. If the Big East loses UConn, another founding member, the conference is doomed.
There is lots of blame to go around, and everyone is to blame- Pittsburgh and Syracuse for leaving, two longtime members who joined forces to set in motion the potential end of the conference, as well as the lack of leadership by Marinatto that led to their defections. One thing is for sure- Big East Basketball Media Day is going to be tense this year.
Another thing is certain- Marinatto is dead wrong- the Big East is most certainly not prepared for the future. If it was, it would have taken the billion-dollar TV deal. He gambled using his conference as collateral, and lost everything.
What a creative way to throw tradition down that well.