Tuesday brought us the annual State of the Union address from President Obama. I also spoke with Big East commissioner John Marinatto on Tuesday afternoon to get his thoughts on the state of the league.
I'll present this in two parts. The first part, here, will go over the 2010 review. Later on, Part II will cover future issues such as coaching turnover, expansion and the league's TV deal.
On the Big East's disappointing 2010 season:
Marinatto admitted that the 2010 season, which saw the Big East struggle against nonconference competition and finish with no teams in the Top 25, "wasn't the year we hoped we would ultimately have." But he pointed to some positives, such as the league's 4-2 record and the fall addition of TCU.
He gave some familiar talking points, including the nonconference record since 2002, which can be a bit misleading since Miami and Virginia Tech were still members then. Mostly, Marinatto said, he hopes people don't read too much into one bad season.
"We try never to look at things in terms of a one-year snapshot of anything," he said. "The year before, we had the No. 3 team in the country and two teams ranked in the Top 20. You have one down year, and there will always be people that are negative. But we don't do that internally.
"We're going to have good years and we're going to have bad years, on both the basketball side and the football side. But we know what we are and know we have the potential to come back the following year and perform as well as we have the last six years. It's a perception issue, not a reality issue."
On the league's current three-game BCS losing streak:
After winning the first three BCS games following the 2005 realignment, the Big East has now lost three straight on the biggest stage. All the losses have been by double digits, and the margin has gotten wider in each successive one. Concern?
"It's always a concern," Marinatto said. "You always want to win those games, obviously. And we will. Our schools have performed consistently. We won the first three and were on an upward spiral. We'll be back up there next year and beyond, and I'm sure we'll perform well and win those games."
Despite the lack of elite teams, the Big East was as competitive from top to bottom as any league. Syracuse and Louisville, who had shared the basement the last couple of years, both rose up.
"It's nice to see Syracuse and Louisville both make bowls this year and both win their respective bowls," Marinatto said. "It's good to see those programs start to come alive. For the Big East conference's long-term future, we need both of those programs to be very competitive. They both have, obviously, a very good tradition, and for them to get back on track and start doing the right things and help the conference build its future is very important to us."
Marinatto pointed out that five Big East schools have either won or shared a league title since 2005, and every school has been to a bowl game in the past two years. All eight schools have at least one bowl win in the past three years.
"That's not true for any other conference in the country," he said.
On Connecticut going to its first BCS game:
Marinatto recalled being at the news conference when UConn announced it was moving from the FCS to the FBS level. He said most of the people in the room didn't believe the Huskies could make a bowl game within the next decade.
"I remember thinking as we were walking out of that room, 'All these people don't really understand UConn,'" he said. "'The UConn I know does everything in a first-class manner, and it won't be long.' It was only three years later that they were in a bowl game, and a very short time later they were representing the conference in a BCS game. So it was neat to see something where you were there at the beginning, where it very first started, and to see them achieve that. I was so proud of them."