Seemingly out of nowhere, Big East presidents asked commissioner John Marinatto to resign, and he has. The conference has released the obligatory statement that tries to make it sound like it was not a firing, and now we wonder where things go from here.
Opinion on Marinatto seems to go two ways. One is that there's only so much anyone could do as Big East commissioner. It was designed as a basketball-first conference, and it's been basketball-focused ever since. That is not Marinatto's fault. Also, it's hard to imagine what he could have done to keep Pitt, Syracuse, and especially West Virginia from bolting. The conference was permanently put at the bottom of the power conference pecking order when the ACC pillaged it almost a decade ago, and if it couldn't stave off raiding parties then, it certainly couldn't now in a less powerful state.
That said, the reviews on his leadership are not that glowing. The conference voted to turn down a $11 million per team per year TV contract offer from ESPN just before Pitt and Syracuse left. Marinatto said even after that he expected to get 19-23 million dollars per team per year, which sounds pretty unrealistic. Those factors (TV and expansion) apparently made today's announcement inevitable. He's also not being described as that strong of a leader.
Why the Big East chose to can him after he led the effort to bring in eight more conference members is a mystery to me. I mean, today's news broke almost three months to the day after the announcement that Memphis will join the league.
Had the Pac-12 actually been able become the Pac-16 either last year or the year before, the Big East would likely have been the landing spot for the Kansas schools, Iowa State, and Missouri (at least until SEC expansion happened with Mizzou). The conference would have been in much better shape for its upcoming round of TV negotiations. Instead, it's now a coast-to-coast Frankenconference made up largely of teams that have been or currently are in Conference USA with only two football teams, Rutgers and (ironically) Temple, that were in a BCS conference when the BCS was created.
No conference had more at stake that was entirely out of its control than the Big East. Conference realignment has relegated it to the ranks of the mid-majors, just as it has probably pushed Idaho out of I-A. Maybe Marinatto isn't the right guy to lead the conference into the future, but whoever takes over won't exactly have a hand full of trump cards.
The fact of the matter is that only so many schools and conferences can truly be big time. The implications of that fact will be borne out painfully on a lot of schools with big egos and dreams but small resource bases over the next decade or two.