Jim Delany Plays Gordon Gekko to John Marinatto's Bud Fox
A former altar boy who spent four years in the seminary, Marinatto was at a Saturday afternoon Mass at St. Pius Catholic Church in Providence, R.I. last month. Marinatto, the Big East's commissioner, was leaving the next day for Scottsdale, Ariz., for the BCS meetings when his cell phone blew up.
"I had my cell phone in my pocket," Marinatto said. "My cell phone is vibrating, vibrating, vibrating. Finally I pull out my cell phone during Mass and see all these messages [about the Big Ten's] 'accelerated timeline.'
"I'm looking through [my texts] and I get nailed for it by Father."
Marinatto received countless cell phone messages because of a Chicago Tribune story that reported the Big Ten expansion, announced originally by Delany as having a 12-18 month time line, had been drastically sped up.
So, technically, it wasn't Delany's fault Marinatto peeked at his cell phone. Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. However, it was Delany's plans to expand the Big Ten, which could either send a small ripple through collegiate athletics or completely obliterate a number of conferences, which has conference commissioners and officials on DEFCON 1.
"Everyone's just trying to put the cart before the horse here as far as what direction is the Big Ten going to go and the speculation of where they're going to go," South Florida football coach Skip Holtz said Tuesday from the Big East's spring meetings. "Are they going to go to 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 [teams]?
"Everything is speculation. It all was stirred by the Big Ten's reach out to say we're going to have a group explore our options. The speculation travels so much more than the process. ... Until we know what's going to happen, we're just spinning our wheels. We could sit here and drive ourselves batty on what college football is going to do if they have option A, B, C, D or E. Let's see what direction [the Big Ten] decides to go and what they feel is best for their league and I think everyone will react at that point."
Not even a decade after the league was gutted by the ACC, the Big East could suffer more casualties again if the Big Ten opts to add the likes of Rutgers, Syracuse, Pittsburgh or UConn. It's unlikely the Big Ten would take all four Big East teams, but they've all been speculated as possible candidates.
Marinatto, just now completing his first year as the Big East's commissioner, said he won't comment on speculation. He said he explicitly trusts Delany and that the Big Ten commissioner has been upfront and honest with him throughout the whole process.
When Marinatto arrived in Scottsdale, Ariz., the day following all of the text messages he received while at Mass, he ran into Delany.
"I bumped into Jim immediately," Marinatto told FanHouse. "He said there's nothing to the Chicago Tribune story. This guy connected the dots and went to the wrong place. It was wrong.
"He said there's no truth to it. You know I would have called you."
Marinatto compared his relationship with Delany to a couple of characters from the movie "Wall Street."
"I feel like I'm Bud Fox and he's Gordon Gekko," Marinatto said. "He's always honest and helpful with me.
"He's brilliant and creative -- just like Gordon Gekko -- he knew all the corners to cut. He understands the landscape."
What that landscape looks like in the future is anyone's guess, but Marinatto believes Delany will not only consider his conference's interests, but all of college athletics.
"Jim is the curator for the Big Ten, but more over, he's one of the curators for all of the community [of] intercollegiate athletics in general," Marinatto said. "So he's not letting something like that happen by accident. Of all people, he looks at the big picture more than anyone."
The Big Ten's desire to expand, of course, is for monetary reasons. The Big Ten already is projected to receive $2.8 billion through 2031-32 from its Big Ten Network and $1 billion from ABC/ESPN through 2016, SportsBusiness Journal reported. By comparison, the Big East receives $200 million from ABC/ESPN through 2013.
The Big Ten's financial numbers would increase by adding more schools, which would lead to more television sets and subscribers to the Big Ten Network.
Marinatto said a Big East TV network "is definitely on the table," but the soonest it could begin would be after their current television deals expire after the 2012-13 school year.
When that time comes, what will the Big East even look like? Or better yet: will there even be a Big East?
"What do we do today to position ourselves as best we can for the time that comes when we have to sit down and talk," Marinatto said. "You're talking about strategic planning. A lot can happen between now and the time we sit down and talk.
"The landscape has changed dramatically [since 2007, the first year of the Big East's current six-year TV deal]. The Big Ten created the Big Ten Network and that's changed the dynamics of the business. The SEC with the potential of creating its own network deal [and current deal] with ESPN has raised the bar for all of us."
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott has said his league is determining if the Pac-10 and Big 12 could combine forces for a television network that would incorporate both conferences.
Just like the Big East did with the Atlantic Coast Conference 11 years ago, but was shot down.
"It's funny we tried to do that concept with the ACC back in 1999," Marinatto said. "We approached the ACC and we tried to get their football schools and our football schools to negotiate as one in order to drive the market place up and they weren't interested in pursuing that concept."
Instead, less than five years later, the ACC was more interested in taking Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College from the Big East.
Now the Big East finds itself in a familiar position: waiting to see if the Big Ten will pilfer some schools from the Big East.
While it's refreshing that Marinatto trusts Delany -- using the Bud Fox/Gordon Gekko comparison -- but for the Big East's sake, let's hope he doesn't resemble a more vivid scene from another movie where Delany pulls a Michael Corleone and pops Marinatto by surprise like Virgil Sollozo and Capt. McClusky after Corleone returned from the bathroom.
Perhaps not so ironically both Gekko and Corleone's catch phrases -- "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good" and "It's not personal, it's strictly business" -- sounds like the Big Ten's new motto. How that affects the Big East won't be known for a while. So until then, Marinatto can only keep praying or wait for his cell phone to vibrate.
Contact FanHouse senior writer Brett McMurphy at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @BrettmcmurphY