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The Phillips File- Big East Ship Sinks Under Marinatto’s Watch

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Can you really blame West Virginia for wanting out from under the Big East’s banner?  After Pitt & Syracuse announced one month prior they would be leaving for the greener pastures of the ACC, WVU officials, along with the rest of its football playing members, decided that saying put in a dying league was suicide.

I guess that would make Big East commissioner John Marinatto the Jack Kevorkian of this story.

Simply put, it’s under John Marinatto’s watch that the Big East has taken a turn for the worse.  Not that he’s totally to blame, but let’s be honest, a strong leader would have been more of a player last season, willing to take risks in order to keep his football members happy and content.

Instead of getting some schools added to try to strengthen the conferences footprint, he simply sat back and watched as others jockeyed for a bigger piece of the TV pie as the Big 10 & Pac 10 made moves.  Then again this fall, the SEC and ACC took turns shaking up the college football landscape.

Did Marinatto do anything?  Did he approach NBC/Universal or Notre Dame about solidifying a deal?  Why not try to force the Irish’s hand?  You can’t tell me the suits who get paid too much for doing too little couldn’t figure out a deal that would have made things right to add ND to keep the Big East in tact?

Seriously, when Notre Dame joined the Big East 1996 for all sports except football, there was an idea that maybe down the road the Domers could be coaxed into wading into the football playing pool of the Big East.  That never happened.

And you can blame Marinatto for that.  If ever there was a time to put the Irish to the test, it would have been last fall.  Marinatto could have told them they are all-in or all-out of the Big East,  but he whiffed at the chance.  He failed to be a true leader and confront the 800 pound gorilla in the room.  He failed at his job.

It’s almost akin to Nero playing his fiddle as he watched Rome burn.  Marinatto has just stood back and yammered away like some punch-drunk fighter who’s been hit one too many times, describing why the Big East is about to die as a football conference.

I mean, can you really blame WVU AD Oliver Luck and the people who run the school for filing a lawsuit on Monday to get out of the conference early?  They site poor leadership as one of the reasons they want out.  That it breaches their deal to protect the Big East football members and thus, allows them to seek play in the Big 12 starting next fall.

WVU has a point about the lack of leadership.

And in a court of law, sometimes it only takes one point like this to break a contract.  One that Marinatto, as I see it, voided with his lack of zest for keeping the football schools safe from extinction over the past 16 months.

I said last fall that Houston and Central Florida would be, along with Notre Dame, a great fit to keep the Big East afloat.  They were working on a new deal with ESPN and having those markets (Houston & Orlando) along with the Irish could make for a bigger money deal and keep the AQ status for the conference regarding the BCS a sure bet.  Not to mention that TCU was coming on board for 2012, bringing the Dallas/Ft.-Worth market with them.

But who am I kidding?  Marinatto just sat back and watched as others took great interest in strengthening their hold among the college football elite.  Now all of a sudden, there is talk of adding those two, along with SMU, Boise State and a few of the service academies.

As if a small band-aid is going to hold back the waters of conference destruction that have broken through the cracks of the Big East’s dyke.

I for one am sad that WVU was rejected by the ACC.  They make total sense geographically speaking, bringing a solid football and basketball program to the table.  They also have natural rivals in Maryland, Pitt and Virginia Tech to feud with and pave the way for adding a 16th member to complete the growth of the ACC into the 1st super conference.

But this isn’t about how good your sports programs are is it?  It’s not about your academic standards also, please.  This is about TV market size.  It’s also about survival and for WVU, they found themselves in both a good and bad spot regarding this.

The ACC didn’t need WVU.  It’s place among the BCS Conference is solid and therefore, was in a buyers market.  They felt WVU brought little to them and passed.

The Big 12 is not so fortunate.  They have lost Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M, with Missouri looking to defect to the SEC.  They are not in any position to be so picky and let’s be honest, there aren’t many schools to choose from.

It’s almost being the last ugly girl standing along the wall at the 8th grade dance.  You know somebody is going to talk to you, but you’re not sure who it will be and when.

I for one will miss the Backyard Brawl.  That series will die just like the Pitt-Penn State game.  It all could have been averted with some leadership and  proactive measures from its commissioner.

John Phillips is the author of this article and a secret member of the Galactic Empire.  When he’s not chasing down Jedi across the Mon-Wharf parking lot, he can be heard hosting talk-shows and anchoring sports updates on 93.7 The Fan.  Follow JP on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/937Phillips

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