Big East Realignment: Pittsburgh Then and Now

CINCINNATI OH - DECEMBER 04: The Pittsburg mascot is pictured covered in snow during the Big East Conference game between the the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium on December 4 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Time to recall what is happening to the Big East: Pittsburgh chancellor and member* of the Big East executive committee Mark Nordenberg hired Big East commissioner John Marinatto (who we've admittedly and openly doubted the capabilities of) in 2009. When the Big East turned down a new media deal, guess who was behind it? Pittsburgh and Rutgers.


Now for the irony of Pittsburgh bolting on the league: 

The Pittsburgh chancellor, Mark Nordenberg, who is widely credited with saving the Big East after Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech moved to the A.C.C. in the early 2000s, twice declined to comment when reached at his home.

So you're on the executive committee of a league you plan to leave that you once saved (Marinatto did his part as well in the background). Do you step down from that position? Do you even give that league and the man you hired the courtesy of a phone call about your intentions?

Answer: no, on both accounts. John Marinatto heard from a reporter that Syracuse and Pittsburgh were heading to the ACC.

So what was the mood coming out of Pittsburgh when Big East schools decided to leave for the ACC the first time in 2003?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was full of doom and gloom in those days, but there were also some things said which we should remember now:

Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook (July 1, 2003):

But who knew that the school presidents were the most unsavory, the most unethical and the most money-hungry of all?

You can put Virginia Tech's Charles Steger at the top of that list. He went after an ACC invitation, was quickly rebuffed, joined a lawsuit with his Big East partners to stop the ACC expansion while pledging his unwavering loyalty to them, then needed about two seconds last week to run off to the ACC when a membership was unexpectedly offered. There is no more detestable figure in this sad story. But do you know what? If the ACC had thrown that same lifeline to any of the other Big East administrators, including Pitt's Mark Nordenberg, they, too, probably would have grabbed it in two seconds. Honor doesn't mean much when big money is at stake.

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese (July 2, 2003):

The public is disgusted with us all. We're educational institutions. We're held to a higher standard than most people. I think people have looked at us in not a very nice way.

Syracuse's athletics director Jake Crouthamel (about Boston College) Oct. 14, 2003:

Three months ago the presidents, chancellors and athletic directors of the six remaining Big East football schools sat face to face and pledged their loyalty to one another and the Big East. I guess handshakes don't mean much anymore

And while Pittsburgh was suing to try to prevent the schools from leaving for the ACC in 2003, what did Nordenberg say?

We really have been focusing on preserving and protecting the Big East as our goal.

Certainly we've met a lot of challenges over the course of the last few years. Personally, I thought we'd earned the right to coast for a while, but life didn't treat us that fairly. Instead, we now have another challenge to meet if we're going to do just that -- protecting our programs, sustaining our momentum and continuing to compete at the highest levels and doing that in an honorable, principled way.

Pittsburgh wasn't interested in trying to polish their brand to be attractive to the Big Ten, but wanted to save the Big East. They tried to bribe Miami to get them to stay. When the Hurricanes left anyway, they sued. Nobody bribed Pittsburgh to stay. Nobody's sued them either.

Marinatto's been betrayed by Nordenberg but said in an email that the Big East "is well positioned for the future and that the events of the past 24 hours will unify our membership." Go back up and take a look at that quote from Jake Crouthamel about handshakes. Now think about how many Big East schools have been silent this weekend.

*Updated to fix the error that we said Nordenberg was the chair of the executive committee.

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