Sunday, October 2, 2011

Signs of the Offseason 2011-06 -- Conference Realignment: Sunday Afternoon in Washington

They Were Not There for the Fall Foliage
The Hartford Courant sports writer Dom Amore has been sending out tweets since 10:00 am this morning about the Big East President's meeting in Washington. After a fortnight that started with the SEC and Texas A∓M formalizing their new relationship and rumors surrounding the two Oklahoma schools, along with Texas and Texas Tech in negotiations with the Pac-12 conference, the conference realignment shifted dramatically east last weekend with the simultaneous announcements by the Atlantic Coast Conference, Pittsburgh and Syracuse that the Panthers and Orange had applied to and been accepted by the ACC for full membership. The conference, staggered by the exit of a second charter member along with a 30 year, multiple conference title holder in basketball tried an initial, football members only meeting in New York City. That the Tuesday night meeting ended in chaos and acrimony strengthened a feeling throughout Division 1 athletics that the conference was taking a last gasp as a player in the BCS football mix. Amore reported (tweeted) that the conference meeting broke up after the projected 3:00 pm deadline. He added the following tweets as part of a post meeting press conference with Big East Commissioner John Marinatto....

1. West Virginia's President did not storm out, as had been rumored around 2pm.
2. BE Presidents voted unanimously to pursue discussions with schools that have expressed interest in joining.
3. Reference to football membership -- "military academies fit the profile".
4. UConn's President Susan Herbst was "terrific in the meeting" and promised to work to strengthen the conference.
5. Presidents will consider bylaws changes to "strengthen the conference" -- up the exit fees.
6. Texas Christian University's President attended and reaffirmed their intent to join the conference next season. According to Commissioner Marinatto, TCU "never wavered" during a very stressful week.

As an observation Amore added that Marinetto apparently felt this was a more positive meeting than the one Tuesday in NYC. "The shock has worn off". Amore followed wth a blog post that indicated the focus for new members will be football playing schools (membership not clear), with a profile that values "high academic standards and strong athletic performance,".

What About Villanova?!
The tweets and Commissioner Marinatto's comments suggest that no invitations were extended today. This leaves fans of Villanova, Temple, East Carolina, Central Florida and Memphis in something of a fog. The Big East Conference issued an official press release shortly after Commissioner Marinatto's press conference ended. Interesting to note that the Presidents were unanimous in authorizing "the Commissioner to aggressively pursue discussions with a select number of institutions that have indicated a strong interest in joining the BIG EAST Conference..." but were not unanimous about "...considering changes to the Conference’s governing bylaws to further solidify the membership of the Conference...". A strong ongoing commitment to the conference is crucial as the conference negotiates with the Air Force and Navy about football-only membership. Those two, rumored to be close to throwing in with the Big East in the days before Syracuse and Pittsburgh defected, were said to be wavering about a membership invitation due to the chaos of the past week. Hopefully the wording will give Commissioner Marinatto the authority to push ahead and successfully close out negotiations with the service academies while working through applications submitted by other institutions.

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