Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese spoke out about the breakup of the Big East, telling our very own Brett McMurphy, "If they want to blame someone, blame me."
There is plenty of blame to go around, no question, and Traghese does deserve his share of criticism. The Big East breakup began under his watch, when Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College defected to the ACC in the early 2000s. But of all the comments he made to McMurphy, this one stuck out to me the most:
"The thing the Big East didn't have was a football leader -- a Florida, Alabama or USC -- a team that contended for the national championship every year or carried the league. It wasn't strong enough football-wise."
I wholeheartedly disagree with that assertion, and it sounds as if Tranghese is practicing a bit of revisionist history here. Because he had Miami as his leader when the league added football in 1991 -- the year the Hurricanes won their fourth national championship. In 1992, Miami played for another national championship before losing to Alabama. While the Hurricanes did suffer through NCAA sanctions and probation for a short period, Miami won another national championship in 2001 and played for another in 2002.
All under the Big East umbrella. Tally up the numbers, and Miami finished in the Top 25 in 12 of its 13 years in the league, won two national titles and played for two more. The Hurricanes had more Top 25 finishes and played for more national titles than Alabama and USC during that stretch.
Virginia Tech also played for a national title and had eight Top 25 finishes during its stay in the league.
So to say the Big East had no football power is either mis-remembering, or trying to make excuses for how the league began to fall apart when he was still commissioner. I think it is safer to say that the Big East failed to embrace the growing power of football and the corresponding growth in television dollars because of its split interests. This league put basketball first at just about every step. Football was never made a priority, and Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech made the first move to get out. That, in turn, left the Big East open to more defections, as Tranghese points out:
"Everything in this day and age is about money," Tranghese said. "I don't know what Mike (Aresco), John (Marinatto) or I could have done. We weren't strong enough football-wise and we got picked apart. If there was someone out there that could have made us more powerful we would have went after them."
And now the Big East is no more.