Big East needs to look at big picture in its commissioner search

It is starting to get close to crunch time for the Big East in its search for a replacement for John Marinatto. Negotiations on a new contract are about to begin–ESPN gets the first shot–and there is talk that the Big East can come up with a deal–whether it is ESPN or NBC/Comcast–that will pay schools between 14 and 17 million dollars per year.

That’s not bad since the Big East appeared to be on life support a year ago with teams lining up moving vans to get out of the league in search of a more secure base.

But the Big East presidents need to look beyond the television deal in their search to run what may be the most challenging and multi-faced league in collegiate sports, with basketball and football being almost two separate entities.

With West Virginia gone and Syracuse and Pitt leaving by next summer, and a new influx of schools that include Boise State, Houston, SMU, Central Florida, Memphis and San Diego State the new Big East seems ready to move forward. There will be more issues of loyalty in the future of course as Louisville, UConnn and Rutgers all check their messages to see who is calling.

And that is the football side. Basketball, with schools such as St. John’s Georgetown, Seton Hall and Providence pushing their own agendas, is another challenge for the new commissioner.

But the Big East is still the Big East in terms of the way it does things–or doesn’t do them. In this case that means presidential involvement, which is fine, if they do the right things the right way.

We are not sure that is happening. The Presidents are obsessed with finding a new commissioner who can seal a sweet television deal. That’s great.

Word has it they are not going to look inside the conference offices that would knock senior associate commissioner Nick Carparelli and associate commissioner Tom Odjakjian out of the box, which is too bad. Both men are qualified to handle not only the television deal, but the business of running the conference as well. The Big East, as it did during its expansion phase last fall, is also using the wisdom of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who no doubt was a strong supporter of the coast-to-coast footprint the Big East is trying to create.

Outsiders supposedly on the final list of five include Pac-12 Deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg and Chris Bevilacqua, a high priced media consultant who is helping the Big East with its television deal and was a big time player in the Pac-12’s lucrative new television contract. Another “outsider”–MLB VP Tim Brosnan–also could be in the mix.

Whether any of the outsiders say yes is the question, even at a million dollars a year that is the buzz of what the job will pay to the right person.

We have another candidate who would fit many, if not all of the criteria-Steve Hatchell.

Hatchell has credentials as a commissioner–at the old Southwest Conference and then newly formed Big 12. As a bowl guy–executive director of the Orange Bowl. He is currently the CEO of the National Football Foundation.

Hatchell certainly would listen if he were contacted. He knows the business, he knows the people involved and he knows that the Big East, as it makes its way through the uncharted waters of a post BCS world with no guaranteed bids for any conference and a 4–team playoff a few years from reality.   He knows that the next three years will set the tone for the next 10 years in terms of how and if the Big survives.

He is willing to do more than listen. In a world of Big East college business that is still filled with back room deals, Hatchell might be the guy who could pull everyone together, which is what the Big East needs now more than ever.

Whoever is chosen, one thing is certain. The Big East needs to get it done quickly and it needs to hire a big picture guy,

© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.

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