NEW YORK — What a dichotomy between the Big East football media day held in tony Newport, R.I., and the basketball version held Wednesday for the first time at the equally tony New York Athletic Club on Central Park South, with ongoing renovations at Madison Square Garden necessitating the change of venue.
Back in August in his opening remarks to the gathering, league boss John Marinatto used most of the time to explain his rationale for not signing a TV rights extension with ESPN last May, preferring to bypass exclusivity for the open market next fall with Turner Sports and NBC/Comcast looking to challenge ESPN in live televised events, and images of major dollars as the last conference to sign dancing in his head.
Fast forward to the sudden announcement made official September 18 that SU and Pitt were ACC-bound, and the apparent lack of foresight associated with understanding that the major college football landscape was as fragile as an earthquake fault line, and waiting 15 months to wrap up a TV deal might as well as been 15 years, athletic directors had to do what they had to do.
Still almost seemingly shell-shocked of the recent defections as he met up close with a personal media barrage engulfing him for a steady hour, Marinatto waxed sentimentally about the 360 degree change in his personal and professional life over losing a program like SU.
“You work to build relationships throughout your entire life, and then to have those relationships immediately severed in a weekend has personally affected me…a lot, quite honestly,” Marinatto said letting out some emotion while acknowledging he was caught off-guard by the announcement out of the blue.
“Despite whatever personal situations might be harmed by all of this (the now frosty relationship between the Big East office and Daryl Gross), we’re all going to be professional in handling this just like we were in ’03 (the defections of Miami, Virginia Tech, and eventually B.C.).”
The mood surrounding the excitement of the upcoming season on the court with the ‘Cuse and UConn the pre-season favorites, and with both season match-ups major TV events on CBS and ESPN’s Saturday night prime time slot, respectively, was shared with one that had many coaches and school administrators shaking their heads.
The longtime loyalists in the room gestured towards Jim Boeheim sitting in one corner in front of a window looking down on Central Park still citing disbelief that the Big East would one day exist without the Orange or Boeheim.
“He (Boeheim) is Big East basketball,” was a refrain echoed often.
Now the only question left to decide is for exactly how much longer that statement will be true, and John Marinatto is going to have a big say in how that’s answered.