Big East’s John Marinatto Resigns/Gets Fired: Or “How the ACC Expanded to 14 Teams”

John Marinatto Was Forced to Resign Because He Never Knew How to Proactively Stop the Bleeding in the Big East

By now you’ve heard all about Big East commissioner (and Providence pasta connoisseur) John Marinatto’s departure. Yet, rather than blame him for the league’s failure to be reactive in the conference realignment game, we’re seeing an awful lot of charming eulogies of a man. Obviously, as a Syracuse fan happy to be on board with the ACC, this is aggravating, and downright false. Cincinnati and Connecticut have already issued statements that they’re pretty thrilled to be in the league, apparently trying to cover things up even further.

Based on the coverage around the web, this will likely be news to everyone, but Marinatto and his Providence predecessor Mike Trangehse (and to a lesser extent the late Dave Gavitt, another Friar, himself) were not the most forward-thinking of fellows. Rather than proactive, they were reactive. Instead of being football focused in a marketplace that increasingly called for such an approach, the Big East’s commissioners decided that running a basketball league was more important. Even when they had a football league, it was all about reactionary moves. Why take Penn State proactively, when you can be reactive and invite Miami, Temple, Rutgers, West Virginia and Virginia Tech. At the time three of those five were great gets. But as always, the league fell short of becoming all it could be on the gridiron. Continue reading

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Conference Realignment: Mountain West, Conference USA to Merge

The Mountain West and Conference USA Are Forming a Completely New League

As has been suspected for awhile, the thoroughly picked-over Mountain West and Conference USA will be combining forces to form one new league — so legally, it’s not a merger, if for nothing else than to allow for a better seat at the bargaining table with ESPN for television rights. The yet-to-be-named league currently has 16 set to play for football, with 15 for all other sports, since Hawaii‘s a football-only member. Surprisingly, the bigger news out of all this is actually contained within the press release on the announcement. It reads:

“The structure of the new conference will likely include:
· Membership of 18 to 24 universities “

So there’s that. Where are these other schools coming from? Well, given that the statement also said the league would span from Hawaii to the Atlantic seaboard (take that, Marinatto), the options are pretty much limitless from the WAC, Sun Belt and MAC. But would any of the schools in those three conferences really want to trade in their (mostly) regional conference status for an unwieldy, super-duper conference setup? For the ‘Belt, teams are already dealing with financial issues involving the postseason and general travel, so why tack on more? And most of all, if there’s another move (there will be), and any of the more important conferences get raided, there’s no way any school in SuperDuperConference (the SDC) says no to an invite to the current BCS leagues. Continue reading

Big East Expansion: Adding Memphis Edition

The Big East Has Added Memphis in All Sports, Starting for the 2013-14 Season

Well, this is just plain laughable. The Big East, looking to make waves and solidify a 12-team football membership for 2013-14 decided to add “national powerhouse” Memphis to the fold. After adding Navy, it appeared the conference would target a strong football power (in a western-ish state) to fill the league’s final spot. And yet, it’s Memphis, the same team that’s won just five games over the past three seasons. If you’re any of the western additions, how are you okay with this “kitchen sink” model? If you’re any of the remaining members from 2011′s iteration, what part of this makes you want to stay (on the football side, at least)? There are countless issues to dive into on this, but let’s lay out the big ones:

1. Louisville isn’t just window-shopping: This was a brief news item last week, and is worth noting again. The Cardinals are “aggressively pursuing” membership into the Big 12. And why not? Adding Memphis does nothing for their growing football brand, despite its immediate must-see rivalry with the Tigers on the court. If the Cards bolt (not unlikely), another Big East team could also follow.

2. West Virginia is probably leaving, effective in 2012: Regardless of what the league has to say about it. Which would knock the Big East down to just seven football schools for the coming season.It’s a disaster that would wreak havoc on the remaining teams’ schedules. Plus, there’s no solution, since Boise’s already said no to an early arrival. This leads us to… Continue reading

Atlantic Coast Convos Top 25 (Final for 2011 Season)

Alabama is the Nation's Top Team After Winning the BCS Title Game

Now that the bowls are over, we’ll take our final shot at ranking the best 25 college football teams in the nation. Like every other publication, we’ll probably have differing opinions from yours. But please, feel free to share any discrepancies below.

Atlantic Coast Convos Top 25 (Final for 2011 Season)

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1) (LW: 3)

2. LSU Tigers (13-1) (LW: 1)

3. Oklahoma State Cowboys (12-1) (LW: 2)

4. Oregon Ducks (12-2) (LW: 5)

5. USC Trojans (10-2) (LW: 6)

6. Arkansas Razorbacks (11-2) (LW: 8)

7. Stanford Cardinal (11-2) (LW: 4)

8. Boise State Broncos (12-1) (LW: 7)

9. South Carolina Gamecocks (11-2) (LW: 11)

10. Wisconsin Badgers (11-3) (LW: 9) Continue reading

BBVA Compass Bowl Preview: Pittsburgh vs. SMU

Pittsburgh and SMU Square Off in the BBVA Compass Bowl

In a battle of two disappointing teams, the Pittsburgh Panthers take on the SMU Mustangs in the BBVA Compass Bowl. As is usually the case with a few of the lower-tier bowls, this one is oddly positioned amidst the BCS games and grabs very little attention in the lead-up to the National Championship Game. Still, the matchup of (soon to be) former and future Big East squads promises to be entertaining as both look to end tumultuous years on a high note.

Bowl Game: BBVA Compass Bowl

Location: Birmingham, Ala.

First Year: 2006 (as PapaJohns.com Bowl)

2012 Participants: Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6) vs. Southern Methodist Mustangs (7-5)

Last Meeting: 1983, a 7-3 Cotton Bowl win by SMU

***

Pittsburgh (previous bowl game: 27-10 win over Kentucky in 2011 BBVA Compass Bowl)

Following the sudden departure of head coach Todd Graham, the Pitt program appears to be in disarray. Failing to live up to the hype of an uptempo, spread offense, the Panthers managed to put up just 25.8 points per game — staying competitive by way of their defense. Though not overly spectacular, Aaron Donald and the front four allowed just 22 points per game, which was enough for their late rally to bowl eligibility. That group will not face the stiffest test in SMU’s offense, but Pitt’s own offense, without the benefit of injured star running back Ray Graham will likely struggle to establish any consistency. The keys to success will likely be the defense forcing turnovers, and the play of quarterback Tino Sunseri. When Sunseri played well down the stretch, the team’s results were directly related. Otherwise, fans can reference their three losses over their final six games.

SMU (previous bowl game: 16-14 loss to Army in 2010 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl)

Amid the excitement of heading to a BCS league, and beating rival TCU, SMU stuttered down the stretch to a 7-5 finish, and third place in Conference USA‘s West division. Opening up with five wins in their first six games, the Mustangs were reminding fans of the Pony Express Southwest Conference days by racking up points and actually playing some great defense. Once the wheels came off though, they fell back down to earth rather hard. The passing game, while ranked 23rd in the FBS, is prone to turnovers behind quarterback J.J. McDermott. Their defense was also unspectacular, with teams scoring around 30 points per game over the final six. Their strength, as it ends up, was the rushing game — at least until stellar starter Zach Line was forced to hang’em up this year due to injury. Without that element of the offense, they stand little chance.

Verdict

Neither defense is anything to truly write home about, and both offenses have left much to be desired in the second half of their respective seasons. While Sunseri has never been overly impressive for Pitt, he has done what McDermott’s failed to over at SMU — put his team in a position to win late in the season. In spite of the Mustangs being the ones playing with a familiar face on the sidelines (June Jones), Pitt will ride its front four and the motivation to prove to Todd Graham wrong to a close, but still meaningful victory. Prediction: Pitt 23, SMU 21

Big East Expansion: Who’s Looking to Start a New Basketball Conference?

Could Georgetown Be Stirring Up Another Big East Exodus?

Apologizing for the slight divergence from our regularly scheduled programming (football) in advance:

In what has become a weekly saga around these parts, we take a look at our (and by our, I mean Syracuse‘s) former stomping grounds (the Big East), which look more like a graveyard most days. While addition has been on everyone’s mind lately, it appears that some more future defections could lead to subtraction in the future (shockingly?). Says the Chronicle of Higher Education: “…two Big East members (that) have had conversations about leaving the conference to start a new league built around traditional basketball powers.” This is, of course, of no surprise to anyone who’s ever been on the inside of the hulking, slow behemoth known as the Big East. But the bigger questions still loom — who are the two Benedict Arnolds, soon to be the “new Pitt and Syracuse?” and if these schools were to form a basketball superconference, who else would be on board?

Obviously, the additions of schools like SMU, Houston and UCF to the basketball league do nothing for the overall quality but provide additional punching bags for the likes of Georgetown and Louisville. Since most of the Big East currently pads their out of conference schedule in advance of what’s usually a brutal 18-game league schedule, these additional bottom-feeders really don’t help. We can surmise that multiple basketball schools are unhappy about this, but which ones are so unhappy they’d consider defection? Keep in mind that candidates will almost definitely be of the league’s old guard, and won’t have a football program (or much of one to speak of). They also won’t be Providence, because John Marinatto and the school hold joint ownership of the conference (metaphorically). Which leads us to Georgetown and St. John’s. Why them, but not say Seton Hall or Marquette? Simple: TV revenue.

Once again, we know that schools are unhappy with this setup, but you have to look at which ones possess enough value to attract other big basketball schools away from their respective conferences and into the “Roundball League” (or whatever probably horrendous name it adopts). Since the Hoyas and Red Storm deliver parts of the New York and D.C. markets, these are your best options. We avoid Villanova since not only do they fail to be the hottest game in town, but their football program is looking to move up in the world (not possible in a basketball-only league). With these two main players set, the following Big East teams probably jump at the chance to join up: Marquette, Seton Hall, DePaul. Assuming they aim for 12, who else do they grab?

In this scenario, we assume Memphis and Temple are pushed by the Big East failing to extend an invite (highly plausible). Recognizing the sinking ship they’d remain a part of, ‘Nova would finally jump to this league, as would Providence. For the final two spots (and to keep it semi-regional), I’d encourage George Mason and VCU. What you’re left with is a 16-team basketball superconference, whose weak link would probably still be DePaul (surely the Demon Deacons don’t find this as entertaining as I do). To be honest, they’d probably get just as many bids as the ACC for the NCAA Tournament every year (if not more). A frightening thought, but far too important to ignore.

If this all comes to fruition (we’re far from that right now), who’d you like to see in this basketball-only superleague? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Big East Expansion: “Now What?” Edition

When the Big East Expands Again, This Guy's Definitely Still Interested

When we last left our more beleaguered East Coast football brethren (former rivals, for the five defectors among us), they were busy expanding to a four timezones format, extending its reach over 3,000 miles from its original locale of Providence, to the shores of San Diego. Since then, Air Force has made it awkward, and no longer wants a seat with the USSR of college football, while fellow service academy Navy is officially locked into independent status until 2014 (at least). So at this juncture, as we’ve asked several times before: now what?

We’ve mentioned most of these at one point or another, but worth noting all of the current candidates again, with odds and explanations attached. The following schools are listed from most likely to garner an invite to least likely. Also keep in mind that a) all schools are pretty much on the table at this point, and b)the conference has not necessarily said it will stop at 12 teams for football.

Temple Owls (Odds — 2:1): Already members of the Big East once, Temple fits the league’s original profile (good at basketball, eastern location), and this time brings a more formidable football program (they’d hope). The biggest barrier to their admittance has always been Villanova, but unless the Wildcats want to play basketball in the Atlantic 10, that stance will probably be changing soon.

Memphis Tigers (Odds — 8:1): Another all-sports addition, Memphis could contend immediately in basketball, but would likely be the new Temple of the league (while Temple would become the Rutgers of the new Big East?). Losing 10 games this past year won’t help them out much, but another defection (not unlikely) would.

ECU Pirates (Odds — 10:1): We’ve mentioned this several times before, but the Pirates have already applied to join the Big East! That was easy. A school that regularly draws 50-60K for football would normally be a big attraction, except that they’re the fifth-best game in town down in North Carolina, and provide little in terms of TV revenue. Ceiling in the new iteration of the league would likely be an 8-4 record.

Villanova Wildcats (Odds — 15:1): Given they’re already a member in all other sports, adding Villanova would be an easy fix. And at this point, the soonest they’d join is 2014, which as luck would have it, could coincide with Navy’s entry date. On the other hand, they play home games in a soccer stadium and usually play less compelling football than (at the very least) Penn and Temple.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles (Odds — 25:1): And to be honest, if they were in an even marginally larger media market, this would be a slam dunk already. The reigning Conference USA champs would love to continue rivalries with UCF, SMU and Houston, and raise their own national profile (they’re the San Diego State of the Gulf Coast, really). Even better than all of this: They’d be an immediate contender in a budding Western division.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (Odds — 35:1): If you’ve already got two teams in Texas, why not add an Oklahoma team, too? Tulsa’s always been decent at football, especially with the whole not-playing-defense thing which seems to work so well for C-USA teams. The drawback — most eyes in Tulsa are likely on the other two big football teams in the state, plus it would be difficult to finish higher than fourth in that Western division.

Toledo Rockets/Colorado State Rams/UNLV Rebels (Odds — 100:1 each): And this is just a sampling of the schools the Big East could consider. Hell, might even throw Hawaii in there while they’re at it. If they’re going for eyeballs and institutional cache, then they’re going for UNLV or to be honeset, Hawaii (have been to a BCS game). Logically, the pick’s Toledo — probably as good as half of the league this year and a natural rival for Cincinnati. Colorado State’s more tossed in there to represent any mountain-type team in that general region of the country.

If we’re stopping at just one additional school (to pair with Navy), Temple would appear to be the pick. However, to avoid pushing too many teams out West (and further toward leaving the conference), they may go with another choice left of the original conference footprint. If that’s the choice, I’d give Southern Miss the call first. In the case of more than just one invite though, no blog post can truly capture the amount of teams on the table. Might as well include every team currently in the MAC, Mountain West, WAC and C-USA. And that’s just for starters.