Big East commish squarely on hot seat

YOU'VE NO doubt seen the lists of coaches on the proverbial hot seat.They're in magazines and websites, etc.If, however, there were such lists for conference commissioners, the Big East's John Marinatto would be No. 1 right now."If I were him," said one source, who asked to remain anonymous, "I wouldn't be sleeping well at night."If you've been following the conference realignment news closely, you know there's been recent precedent. The Big 12 seems to have survived blows, but ex-commissioner Dan Beebe did not. He was replaced, at least for now, by Chuck Neinas.Neinas seems to have taken a firm grip on the conference, holding two days of meetings in Dallas this week, meeting with each school athletic director individually.The spotlight there shines on Missouri, rumored to be the next school to move to the Southeastern Conference. The Kansas City Star reported the Mizzou Board of Curators will meet this coming Tuesday to discuss realignment scenarios. Part of that discussion will revolve around a Big 12 exit fee of as much as $40 million.Neinas is confident Missouri will stay."I think that once they have an opportunity to fully understand and comprehend what the conference is doing that they will agree that Missouri should continue to be a good member of the Big 12 Conference," he told reporters.Texas A&M, of course, already left the Big 12 for the SEC. But Neinas seems to be rallying the Big 12 toward stabilization - at least as much as one can these days.That doesn't seem to be the case with Marinatto. Of the six BCS conferences, the Big East is the one most crippled. In fact, as the situation stands, the league very well could be replaced within the BCS structure at the end of the current deal - if not before.While the Big East watched as Syracuse and Pittsburgh were swiped from its ranks, the Mountain West and Conference USA have pushed forward with the idea of a football-only merger.The Big East, meanwhile, has simply talked about adding Navy and Air Force. The league is down to seven teams, less if Connecticut, Rutgers and TCU bail. The Mountain West-Conference USA merger could certainly supplant the Big East. Also, BCS leaders are discussing the idea of allowing more than two schools from each conference into the big-bowl ring. In other words, "We don't have to take the Big East champion with Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and Florida sitting there, do we?"That's why the Big East presidents are meeting this Sunday in Washington. The SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 conferences are strong. The Big 12 has been strengthened. The crippled Big East has been targeted.
Which reflects poorly on Marinatto.Earlier, even Big East basketball coaches reportedly criticized the commissioner. "Multiple Big East basketball coaches, each speaking anonymously to CBS Sports on Friday, blame Marinatto's poor leadership for the conference's instability. ... Each coach pined for the days when Mike Tranghese and the late Dave Gavitt were in charge." 'I firmly believe we would manage this a lot better with a different leader,' a Big East head coach told CBS. 'He's a good man, a good right-hand man, but I think he's in over his head.' "A source confirmed to me that Marinatto will attend the Big East presidents meeting. It would certainly be worse for him had he not been invited.But not much is well when university presidents, rather than athletic directors, clear time to meet.
To be fair, much of what's taken place has been out of Marinatto's hands. But the commissioner hasn't made a mark, either.
In fact, he might have made several gaffes. The Big East and ESPN were discussing negotiating a new TV deal. The SEC signed a 15-year deal with ESPN and CBS in 2009 worth $3 billion. The ACC signed a 12-year deal with ESPN worth $1.86 billion. The Pac-12 signed a 12-year, $3 billion deal.Marinatto decided it best to pass on signing a new deal with ESPN in order to negotiate after it expires after the 2012 season."There's a distinct advantage in going last," the commissioner told me this past May.Or not. Not after Pitt and Syracuse announced plans to sail.There is also the matter, of course, of Pitt and Syracuse sailing.Also, he supposedly spoke to Big 12 schools about admission to the Big East if their conference collapsed. The league hasn't collapsed. There appears to be little Big East Plan B, save for Navy and Air Force.Will firing Marinatto help the situation? Perhaps not. But the situation can't get much worse for his league's football schools. And the Big 12's move to Neinas certainly hasn't hurt.What might happen is a long-awaited split between the Big East football and basketball schools. Perhaps Marinatto will remain in charge of the basketball faction.The problem is the Big East owns the automatic qualifying status. Perhaps the football schools can make an offer to the basketball schools to keep the league brand. Would that fly, though, with schools like Georgetown, Villanova and St. John's, schools with serious ties to the Big East basketball brand?We'll see what surfaces from this Sunday's Big East meeting.And we'll see if Marinatto survives.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, or follow him at           
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