Eerily Familiar Feel at Big East Meetings
Despite all the breath-taking surroundings, Brey said the setting was nothing like paradise, but something much different.
"It was like a morgue here," Brey told FanHouse. "It was like coming to a funeral."
The Big East had been rocked by the recent departures of Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College to the Atlantic Coast Conference and was on life support.
"We were all sitting around wondering what we were going to do," Brey said.
The Big East eventually added Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Marquette and DePaul in 2005. The league not only managed to survive, but even thrive in its new format. Yet, once again, the Big East's future is a concern as the league's spring meetings began Monday.
This time, the Big Ten is considering expansion with half of the Big East's eight football schools having been mentioned as possible candidates: Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and UConn.
"It's like déjà vu again," Brey said.
UConn football coach Randy Edsall said last month if the league only loses two teams "the Big East is all done."
What will happen is anybody's guess. But that hasn't stopped the dozens of anonymous source reports, theories, speculation and, uh, basically crap thrown against the wall trying to figure out what the Big Ten will do and the resulting dominoes affecting the other conferences from sea to shining sea.
"I look at this situation as another threat, certainly, and it would irresponsible not to be concerned about it," Big East commissioner John Marinatto (above, right) said after Monday's first round of league meetings. "We're trying to position ourselves the best we can. You always play out what you might do, but you certainly can't do that in a public forum because that's even more irresponsible to bring in other players [schools] in a public way."
While his league is unsure what schools, if any, the Big Ten might take, Marinatto said the Big East might even go on the offensive.
"Oh yeah, we've been working quietly, trying not to put things in the public arena and public forum for a variety of reasons," he said. "It leads to unnecessary speculation. You want to do things intelligently and the more you can keep things confidential, ultimately the better you are."
Marinatto said the league purposely added revisions in the league's constitution so the Big East could expand "if it was in the collective best interest to do that or it if was in the interest of our football group to do that."
Marinatto said if a school or schools "brought value," the basketball membership could grow to 17 or 18 basketball schools, which would expand the football league to nine or 10. The football coaches have long advocated adding a ninth-football member.
The Big East also has added the services of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue as a consultant. Tagliabue, who is a Georgetown graduate, is not in Ponte Vedra Beach this week, but participated in Monday's meetings via conference call.
"We've brainstormed [with Tagliabue], but there's nothing I can share with you," Marinatto said. "We want to come up with unique ways and creative ways of approaching all of the issues that we're trying to approach. Valuing our assets, how we can capitalize on what we've created under the auspice of the Big East and the fact we represent 25 percent of the market places in the country.
"He [Tagliabue] has some ideas."
Some of those ideas include a Big East television network when the league's current TV deals expire with ESPN/ABC and CBS after the 2012-13 school year. The current Big East membership includes five of the nation's top 14 television markets.
"It [a Big East TV network] is definitely on the table," Marinatto said. "It's absolutely something we're looking at."
Whatever the Big Ten decides to do, Marinatto won't speculate on what might happen.
"For me, sitting in the seat that I [sit in], it's just irresponsible and inappropriate to speculate and speculate on other people's speculation, to feed into that frenzy," Marinatto said. "Instead it's appropriate for me to talk about the Big East, and since '05, what we've been able to accomplish, how we've positioned the conference to do great things in moving forward.
"In the face of what happened in '05, with everyone who is supposedly out there in the 'quote unquote' expert field, no one thought we'd be able to do what we've done. Instead, in the face of all that, we've been very successful. We've reconstituted, been reborn in many respects, and have become stronger today than we were in the previous 29 years of our existence."
Still, Marinatto acknowledges the Big Ten's announcement in December that the league would consider expansion has made for some anxious moments.
"It has caused some anxiety," Marinatto said. "But not negative – just anxious."
Contact FanHouse senior writer Brett McMurphy at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @BrettmcmurphY