Tranghese: Big East defections were inevitable
When Syracuse announced last year it was leaving the Big East for the ACC, former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said it “ripped out the heart” of the league’s seven Catholic basketball schools.
Even before Syracuse’s decision, Tranghese knew that eventually those seven basketball schools would split away from the Big East’s football programs.
Tranghese, who was the league’s commissioner from 1990-2009, said Saturday’s official announcement that DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova were leaving the conference to pursue a new basketball framework was inevitable.
Big East Exodus
The loss of the seven non-FBS schools is the latest in a dizzying array of defections from the Big East, which formed in 1979. The seven schools bring the number of departures since 2004 to 17.
“There was too much stress put on the structure (of the Big East),” Tranghese said. “Mostly by football and the money.”
“I’m not crying or moping on it. It was an incredible run for 30 plus years. I’m sad to see it go and it’s time to move on and focus on what lies ahead in the future.”
Tranghese said critics who want to place the blame on former commissioner John Marinatto and/or current commissioner Mike Aresco are misguided.
“If they want to blame someone, blame me,” Tranghese said. “The thing the Big East didn’t have was a football leader — a Florida, Alabama or USC — a team that contended for the national championship every year or carried the league. It wasn’t strong enough football-wise.”
Another factor was the huge difference in media rights revenue, Tranghese said. The SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC all currently have media rights deals worth at least $17 million per school annually.
The Big East’s football schools currently receive $3.12 million annually. The league’s football deal expires after the 2013-14 season. Last year, the Big East turned down a $1.4 billion media rights offer from ESPN that would have earned each football member about $13 million annually.
“Everything in this day and age is about money,” Tranghese said. “I don’t know what Mike, John or I could have done. We weren’t strong enough football-wise and we got picked apart. If there was someone out there that could have made us more powerful we would have went after them.”
Because the power five conferences made so much more, the Big East’s only options were adding teams from Conference USA, the Mountain West, Mid-American and Sun Belt.
Tranghese said the seven Catholic schools stayed as long as they possibly could.
“I think they’re good people, they always wanted to make it work,” Tranghese said. “I think they tried as hard as they could. When Syracuse left, that ripped the heart out of a lot of people. When it got down to Louisville or UConn (going to the ACC) that was another big blow to the basketball schools from a basketball standpoint.
“That was the breaking point.”
Tranghese said it doesn’t matter whether he thinks the football or basketball schools should keep the “Big East” name but admitted it is “very complicated.”
“They’ll have to work it out,” Tranghese said. “I don’t know all the internal and legal ramifications. It’s a complicated process. They (the seven Catholic schools) can survive with or without the name. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t get it.”
Tranghese now lives in Jupiter, Fla., where he works as a consultant. He last attended the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden in 2011, but said he will try to make this year’s tournament in March for sentimental reasons.
“Selfishly I want to see (Syracuse coach) Jimmy Boeheim and (Pittsburgh coach) Jamie Dixon (playing in the Big East Tournament in MSG) one last time. It could be their last time there,” he said.
Before the announced departures of Rutgers and Louisville, Madison Square Garden recently signed an extension with the Big East. However, the Garden may get out of the contract if there continues to be changing membership in the league, a source told ESPN’s Andy Katz.
Tranghese declined to comment if he thought Madison Square Garden would want to continue to be aligned with future Big East members, such as UCF, Houston, SMU and Tulane.
“The Garden will decide that,” he said.
Tranghese added he felt badly for UConn, Cincinnati and South Florida.
“All this (realignment) put them in a very bad position,” Tranghese said. “UConn has won seven women’s national (basketball) championships and three men’s national championships, yet they are not allowed a place at the ‘so-called’ big table. That shows there’s something wrong with the system.”
Tranghese hasn’t been contacted by the basketball schools to assist in building the new league, but said he would consider helping if asked.
“I want them to be successful,” Tranghese said. “I want them to have some peace of mind.”
Brett McMurphy covers college sports for ESPN.
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