A Tranghese's History Of The Big East Conference: 1979-Present

Some interesting quotes in William C. Rhoden's Big East Demise article in the New York Times on Monday (hey, just in time for the Big East Tournament!). Basically, Mike Tranghese attempts to re-write history in a feeble attempt to convince everyone that he saw this coming.

"I think that people for the most part didn't understand how big and important football was," the former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said in a recent interview. "It really drove the cart."

If Tranghese had this epiphany in say, 2002, BC would probably still be the in Big East, along with Miami, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Syracuse. However, the most egregious re-write of the history books was that Tranghese thought that the basketball-only school and the football schools should have split.

Tranghese was hired to follow Gavitt in 1990. In 1991, the Big East began playing football. The league had no choice. It had to look at football or break up.

The conference presidents commissioned a study to determine whether the Big East should stay intact or disband. The turmoil in the college football establishment was cresting - you were in or you were out. The Big East had taken in Miami to get the big-name football program it desperately needed. Now there was pressure to take on more football-playing universities: Rutgers, West Virginia, Virginia Tech.

The study recommend that the Big East stay together. Tranghese had misgivings even then. "I don't think they envisioned any idea of all this jumping around taking place," he said.

"I thought at that point, our league should have given very serious consideration to separating," Tranghese said. "From where I was sitting, the difficulty of keeping everything together - some people playing football, some people not playing football - was a challenge."

The Big East added Rutgers and West Virginia in 1995, Virginia Tech in 2000.

Did this thought ever cross Tranghese's mind? Sure, I guess. But there is also no way he said peep about this or even try to take the lead on the issue. As Pitt Blather points out, a football-hoops split would have weakened Tranghese's / Providence's power as I'm sure he wasn't sticking with the football schools post-split.

Tranghese also now claims that he said the Big East would "rue the day" that they didn't invite Penn State to the conference, putting the blame squarely on the basketball schools -- I'm not going to name names or anything, but cough, Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova, cough -- for blocking the addition of Penn State.

The whole article wreaks of self-promotion and CYA. If Tranghese really felt this strongly about splitting the conference and/or adding Penn State to the fold, it would have been done. He was the commissioner for crying out loud.

Curiously absent from the article is Tranghese covering his ass on the decision to let Notre Dame dump its Olympic sports in the conference and steal all the conference's choice bowl trips... "I thought at that point, our league should have either forced Notre Dame to join as an all-sports member or we should have turned them away."

Or allowing hoops programs like Providence, Seton Hall and St. John's, which haven't been nationally relevant since the 1980s, to call the shots ... "I said, ‘We will all rue the day about this decision,' " Tranghese said. "I understood how far PC hoops had fallen over the years. I didn't understand how we let the Friars continue to have a disproportionate amount of influence on the decisions of the conference in the 2000s."

But don't worry, everyone. Tranghese saw this all coming, and would have rather retired than have to go through another excruciating round of picking off any Conference USA program with a pulse.

"I knew it was coming; the handwriting was on the wall," he said. "I didn't know if it was going to be a day, a week or a month, but I knew it was coming and I just refused to sit there and go through it again."

I will give Tranghese credit. When he needs an article written to rationalize / justify poor decisions from his past, he calls up the NYT's William Rhoden. When Gene needs a similar service performed, he hits up the Globe's Mark Blaudschun or the MetroWest Daily News on speed dial.

Well played, Tranghese. Well played indeed.

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