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Cincy’s Mick Cronin says Big East breakup is “tragic”

The referees might have succeeded in quieting down Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin when they hit him with a technical during the Bearcats’ 62-43 loss to Georgetown in the Big East quarterfinals Thursday afternoon, but his Irish passion came out in the postgame press conference when asked for his thoughts on the impending Big East breakup.

Cronin got right to the point. “The whole thing is tragic,” he said. “Nobody cares about student-athletes. All anybody cares about is money. Everybody in the NCAA, in college administration, they talk about academics and student-athletes. If people cared about student-athletes, West Virginia wouldn’t be in the Big 12 with ten teams [in various sports] flying 800 miles to the closest [opponent]. That’s really conducive to studying. The whole thing is a hypocrisy.

“But I’m part of it. I love doing what I do because I get to coach basketball…but the money has ruined it. If I was a fan, I’d be very disenchanted.”

Cronin objected when one reporter asked how to reform college sports when “the coaches want their money and the fans want to be entertained.” The Cincinnati coach recalled how he made $800 a month when he started out and said money isn’t the reason he got into coaching. He added that he works 12 months a year and has to raise $250,000 so his team can travel like other top-level schools.

Outlining reasons for the push for more money by athletic departments, Cronin said there isn’t enough money to fund women’s sports and Olympic sports, and states are giving less money to universities, which then economize on athletics.

“So, everybody’s just, well, ‘Let’s change leagues because we can solve our money problems,’” Cronin said.

No doubt, Cronin would be the first to admit Cincinnati would jump at a chance to join a big-money conference. But the Bearcats are stuck with their football partners in the remnants of the Big East conference and will be playing in a league under a new name next season with a bunch of new schools.

Nonetheless, Cronin lamented the way college realignment has trampled all over traditional rivalries. “The fact we’re sitting here and this is the last Big East tournament is beyond ridiculous,” Cronin said. “This is the greatest tradition in college athletics, this tournament, at one site for [31] years.

“It’s only gone for one reason – money. Money.”