John Marinatto talks TCU, expansion

John Marinatto's holiday weekend was anything but relaxing.

The Big East is moving its Providence offices on Tuesday morning, and if the big move weren't enough, Marinatto was putting together all the finishing touches on adding TCU to his league while trying to keep it quiet. On Thanksgiving night, Marinatto sat at his desk eating a meatball sub.

Still, as an exhausted Marinatto caught a plane home from Dallas on Monday evening, he did so with a smile. He had landed a big fish, after all. I caught up with the commish and got his take on some pressing issues:

On whether TCU was the No. 1 target: "Since 2005, we always said we wanted to expand if someone brought us value. And these people bring a lot to the table, particularly in football. They open up a market for us in recruiting and now we have a foothold in the East, Midwest, Florida and Texas, which are the four hotbeds for college football."

On travel issues: Marinatto said it's only an issue for non-football sports, and the travel isn't as bad as it seems. The Big East does not require that individual-based sports -- like track, swimming and diving, cross country, tennis and golf -- play other league schools in the regular season. They can play local opponents or go to meets and then advance to the Big East postseason tournament. The Mountain West did have that requirement, so TCU actually has to pay more in travel expenses for those teams in the MWC than it will in the Big East.

The only sports that will be affected, then, are team sports such as men's and women's basketball, soccer, baseball and volleyball.

"It's not as much of a geographic stretch as you might think," he said.

On whether there was resistance to going to 17 teams: "There wasn't at the end of the process. I think the number was scary for people at the beginning. Once we started talking through it all, people grew comfortable with the idea."

On whether there is more expansion coming: "I don't want to talk about specifics. This is the first step. Now we'll take a step back and re-evaluate where we are and decide what we want to do next."

On Villanova: Marinatto said he spoke to Villanova again Monday about the school's possibility of moving up to the FBS and becoming a Big East football member. "In the worst-case scenario, I believe they will make a final decision by their April board meeting, one way or the other."

I asked him if April might be too late for the league, which would like an answer by the end of this year.

"It might be. If a situation arises, we're going to act. We're not going to wait for Villanova. This [TCU] was one of those situations we thought was too good to pass up."

On whether the Big East wants a championship game: "We've talked about it. I don't know if we have any consensus on it. I don't know if we're in a position right now to say that's what we're doing."

On going to divisions in basketball/other sports: Marinatto said it's too early to determine that, because he's only talked to league presidents so far. The league athletic directors will get more involved in scheduling decisions and come to a conclusion on what's the best fit.

On whether TCU is a lasting program or just enjoying an excellent stretch with a great coach: "They have a track record over the last decade. Their numbers are very strong, and they've performed extremely well in the polls and on the field. They've proven themselves. They have a high-quality coach, which means they've made a commitment, and certainly they have the financial resources. We've studied it. They've made a huge dollar commitment. Hopefully it's not just about the coach when you've got the dollars and the commitment, and the school has plenty of resources."

On the oddness of a Texas school calling the "Big East" home: "My response is, if a conference can have 12 teams and call itself the Big 10 and another conference can have 10 teams and call itself the Big 12, why can't the Big East have a school in Texas?"

On whether he's learned the Horned Frog hand signal: "Not yet. I'm still trying to master the 'Live Long and Prosper' signal from Star Trek.