Surprising news out of Providence this morning as Big East commissioner John Marinatto has "stepped down" from his post after just three years on the job. "Stepped down" is in quotes because many media members are reporting that Marinatto was asked to resign by several league presidents, and that the forced resignation was a long time coming.
Marinatto released the following statement this morning:
"After a great deal of thought and prayer, I have decided to step down as Commissioner of the BIG EAST Conference and formally advised our Board of Directors. I have been associated with this league for my entire adult life and have had the tremendous honor of serving as its Commissioner since 2009. Our recent expansion efforts have stabilized the Conference for the long term, and we are likewise well positioned for our very important upcoming television negotiations. As a result, I felt this was the right time to step aside and to let someone else lead us through the next chapter of our evolution. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish and would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank both our membership and my staff for their unwavering encouragement, support and loyalty - especially during this past year. I am extremely confident about the future of this league that I love very much."
Marinatto's role during the massive shuffling of conference realignment will be what ultimately defines - and what ultimately doomed - his era. He was widely criticized for losing Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC, and then West Virginia and TCU, which had just signed on with the Big East, to the Big 12. He responded by adding Temple in football for the upcoming season, Houston, SMU, Memphis and Central Florida in all sports for 2013-14, and then Boise State and San Diego State in football only. Navy will also join the league in 2015.
The timing of the move is significant, as the Big East has the major task of renegotiating its television contract coming up this fall. Then there's also college football's move to a four-team playoff, a shift which greatly diminishes the importance of the Big East's BCS automatic qualifier status.
Basically, expect a new commissioner to be named shortly.
The impact this has on Louisville is, I think, fairly self-explanatory. I don't think it's any secret that U of L has showed continued interest in a move to the Big 12 and that the school has been prepared to accept the conference's invitation whenever it chooses to expand again. One of the first major tasks the new Big East commissioner will be saddled with is doing what he can to convince Tom Jurich to stick around. It will be a tough sell, but I suppose it's a better shot (or at least a shot) than the league had with Marinatto at the helm.
Jurich has not issued any sort of statement on the situation at this time.