Big East athletic directors upbeat after meetings

Posted: May 27, 2012

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - All the praise R.C. Johnson received for leading Memphis into the Big East Conference appeared premature.

Instead, it appeared Johnson, who will retire in June, signed the Tigers up for a big mess when they officially become full-time members in 2013.

For that, the 70-year-old was understandably a little uneasy when he arrived here for the Big East's spring meetings.

"I feel better now than I did two days ago," Johnson said Wednesday on the final day of the three-day meetings.

He didn't see a league in disarray after the reported forced resignation of commissioner John Marinatto on May 8.

Nor did Johnson, a former athletic director at Temple, see league members disheartened because of the defections of West Virginia, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh under Marinatto's watch.

Texas Christian had planned to join the Big East, but will go instead to the Big 12 and never play a game as a member of the Big East.

West Virginia will play in the reconstituted Big 12 this fall. Syracuse and Pittsburgh will begin play in the Atlantic Coast Conference as early as 2013.

And more important, Johnson, despite speculation, didn't get a sense that more teams are going to bolt.

"The enthusiasm, the encouragement, the excitement just kind of permeates around the room," Johnson said. "I feel confident. You know, you and I do know this. Tomorrow, four of these people could be gone. But we are not worried about that.

"I just feel very confident and upbeat."

And his confidence appeared to be contagious.

Never mind that Louisville, Rutgers, Connecticut, and Notre Dame have been mentioned as teams that could leave for other conferences.

The mood at the meetings was one of togetherness.

"I have great confidence in the Big East," said Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

Swarbrick even added that his inquiries with Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds about Big 12 interest were taken out of context.

"I think the atmosphere reflected here, the focus on the future leadership of the conference all steps towards that, the work that was done to replace the departing member, that's all good stuff," he said of the Big East. "You know I don't think there's any reason to not be optimistic about the future."

There's a thought among Big East athletic directors and coaches that the additions of Temple, Boise State (football only), San Diego State (football only), Memphis, Houston, Southern Methodist, Central Florida, and Navy (football only) were made to help secure a TV contract of around $2 billion. Brigham Young or Air Force is expected to join Navy in 2015, according to multiple sources at the spring meetings.

"There's a real commitment by everybody," Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw said. "There's been so many changes and criticisms of the league. But to see everybody come together and say we are going to make this work, to hear from the media- rights people . . . is encouraging, too."


Contact Keith Pompey at 215-854-2939 or Follow him on Twitter @pompeysgridlock.


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