An influential coach in the Big East Conference was asked what truly befell John Marinatto, whose title now reads "former Big East commissioner," upon his announcement Monday to "step down."
The coach said: "He was a victim of the athletic directors at football schools and other circumstances beyond his control."
Makes you wonder what the job description will be for Marinatto's successor.
"Must be able to find communal agreement amid endless driblets of distractive babble from schools with nothing in common. Must negotiate among a hemorrhage of betrayals, alliances and politics."
Seriously. Masochists apply within. Otherwise, it's doubtful the dramatis personae would be interested in joining Jimmy Carter at Camp David. And Bishop Tutu has other things to do.
So it comes to this: The Big East is beyond repair.
Unless you believe, say, Providence and Southern Methodist have similar mission statements.
It's a sad day. Not that Marinatto resigned, necessarily. But that his resignation is a symbol of the conference's irreparable dysfunction. And we can't let sentiment for a league that springboarded so many little, regional eastern schools into the national mainstream cloud what must happen.
The Big East must split. Now. It is utterly fruitless to think a new commissioner can unite the football schools and the basketball schools whose enrollments, vocations, locations and traditions couldn't be more disparate.
Throughout the recent football and basketball seasons, rumors and vignettes in off-the-record conversations happened wherever the league's tentacles reached:
First, the television contract. After other conferences throughout the country signed absurd, if not lucrative, television deals, Marinatto believed he had a deal in place. Georgetown reportedly carried the torch for the naysayers.
It leads to the question: Why would a basketball school that can't possibly generate the same revenues as football and basketball schools have the same seat at the table? It's understandable the Big East would have some loyalty for its original schools. But the original schools, mostly basketball only, have this refusal to accommodate new evidence and changing circumstances. Such as football's burgeoning power.
Common sense suggests that if you are, say, Louisville, with the chance to give the Big East both BCS and Final Four revenues, your patience with a small basketball-only school would be limited. And should be.
Then came the division of television money. Coaches who attended the spring meetings in Florida shook their heads at the proposed monetary splits, which were as wide-ranging as the league's geography. Andrea Adelson on ESPN.com reported Monday that a 75/25 split favoring football schools was pooh-poohed by "an athletic director at a basketball school raised his hand and wondered why the numbers were not flipped, since hoops is the reason the Big East exists in the first place."
And Marinatto - or anybody else for that matter - is supposed to wave some wand, sprinkle the pixie dust and have these people singing spirituals by nightfall?
I'm not sure Marinatto ever had a chance. Outwardly, the football schools weren't good enough to command much national respect against other BCS leagues. Inwardly, the backbiting was incessant. Clowns to the left of him, jokers to the right …
None of us wants this to be true. We remember the Big East a certain way. We remember the old days when it was Roberts Center, Manley Field House and McDonough Gym. We remember the emergence of Madison Square Garden, like the night the marquee read "Allen vs. Allen," Ray vs. Iverson in a pulsating Big East final. We remember Louie, Rollie and Big John.
Alas, our remembrances are all basketball in a landscape that has changed to football. The Big East never wanted to be anything more than what gave it such prominence: a basketball Goliath. But it's call changed. And it's led to dysfunction. It cost Marinatto his job. It's a symbol of utter hopelessness.
The Big East changed lives. It gave us a national outlet. It gave us unforgettable games, personalities and nights. It was a great run. But it's over. Raise a glass to its memory.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.