Big East basketball is in trouble? Not according to conference commissioner John Marinatto.
Marinatto talked with Newsday on Thursday about the advantages of having a 16-team basketball league and said even with the defections of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the conference still among the best, if not the best, in the country in basketball.
“Our history and our genesis was built on basketball. Both our men’s and women’s programs over the years have done extremely well,” said Marinatto. “Last year we set two records: one on the men’s side with 11 and on the women’s side with nine. So we have a solid foundation to move forward.”
Marinatto lauded the league’s ability to adjust. With so many schools that don’t play FBS football in the Big East (7), it is a little easier to develop numerous conference alignment scenarios.
Many critics didn’t see it that way when the Big East went to the 16-team format eight years ago. Most believed scheduling games would've been a nightmare.
“Because our makeup is so unusual, we’re not like any other conference,” Marinatto said. “We have flexibility to be able do things like that, which is what we said in back 2003. Most people looked at it and said it won’t work. It’s been quite the opposite.”
Now, all of the other BCS conferences are eyeing a 16-team format.
That won't force the Big East won’t rush into anything, though.
Added Marinatto: “So as we try and reconfigure, however it is we need to, we know we have that inherent flexibility since we have schools that football at the [FBS] level and some that don’t.”
The reports circulating that the Big East has sent invitations to at least five schools -Three for all sports, two for just football- could leave the league with as many as 17 teams after Pittsburgh and Syracuse leave.
The league has been preparing itself to deal with any scenario, especially in basketball.
“We’ve had a variety of models that we’ve talked about, everything from an 18-school basketball league to a 24-school basketball league,” Marinatto said. “As we move forward, we’ll make those decisions accordingly.”