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BIG EAST and Expansion: John Marinatto Continues to Play Poker With No Cards In His Hand

Quick, who said this?

The idea was to think outside the box. Look at different ways of doing things. Try and see what possibilities are out there. I don’t know what that is. It could be anything.’’

That's right, it was BIG EAST commissioner John Marinatto back on April 22.

Now, who said this?

"I look at this situation as another threat certainly. It would be irresponsible not to be concerned about it. We're trying to position ourselves as best we can. In my mind, you always play out what it is you might do, but we certainly can't do that in a public forum. (It would be) even more irresponsible of me to bring in other players to the situation in a public way."

That was Marinatto in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, at the BIG EAST spring meetings today. He then proceeded to wade into the lake at the 17th hole at Sawgrass and hope that the alligators would eat him so he wouldn't have to worry about this anymore.

OK, that didn't happen, but what he said after that kind of scares me.

"In football, we're so much stronger than we were in '04-05," he said. "Back then, we had schools that when you talked about the Big East and football, you thought about those schools. Now over the past five years we've been reconstituted, six of our eight schools have shared the regular-season championship in football. We've spread it out, and it's much more competitive and even."

First, no you're not stronger. About the same, from a standpoint of on-the-field accomplishments, but you can't lose Virginia Tech and Miami and then try and claim you're a stronger league after that. Yes, Rutgers and Connecticut have improved quite a bit, and the three most recent members have done fairly well for themselves. But no one in the current BIG EAST has yet reached the level of national cachet that either the Hokies or Hurricanes had, or continue to have. Unfortunately, image matters in people's minds when they think about how strong your league is. There is no bell cow in the BIG EAST right now. And even though other leagues have had similar parity (for example, the SEC has had five different champions in the last six years), no one has a profile big enough to cover up for it.

Second, and more importantly, how strong would you still be if you had to go raid Conference USA again? That league is far weaker than it was back in 2003, and the teams who most deserve promotion to a BCS conference are in other leagues, outside your geographical footprint. There's no way you would not seriously weaken the BIG EAST if you had to add more than, say, one team from C-USA. You might even weaken it by just adding one. Since USF has zero chance of getting into the Big Ten, that negatively impacts our most important sport, and could be borderline disastrous.

Combine that with the ACC's new TV deal, which takes away any incentive Boston College or Maryland might have had to leave (along with any out-of-the-box ideas the BIG EAST might have had), and it seems obvious that Marinatto has no choice but to sit around and wait for everyone else to play their hands. He can try and bluff, but he doesn't have any cards and everyone else at the table has hands that they can't be moved off of. If all Marinatto has to talk about is the present and not what's really at stake here -- the future -- then you know he knows the BIG EAST might be up a creek. Either that, or he's given up on football and is just looking out for the basketball schools, which would be a pretty good idea if everyone goes to plaid.

One more quote. Who said this?

"I just thought going black, all the lights out, spotlight on the floor, sold-out Madison Square Garden," he said. "And now, ladies and gentlemen, for your entertainment at halftime, this year's Dancing with the Stars champions, Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke."

Yeah, that's Marinatto too. We're all gonna die.