May is prime-time for NCAA Division I conference planning. Almost every conference has held or will hold meetings of presidents, coaches and athletics directors this time of year. Key to the proceedings, however, is the presence of a commissioner and conference staff that organize those meetings and ensure that the pressing matters are dealt with. When the Big East presidents meet next week -- and reportedly, they've chosen to continue the Old Big East tradition of meeting in Florida, despite having no presence in that state -- it is unlikely that they will have a commissioner present to run the meetings.
It is impossible that they will have established staff for a league office either.
According to a report from AJerseyGuy.com that was reiterated by ESPN's Andy Katz this morning, the Big East presidents still haven't settled on a commissioner just yet. Making matters worse, however, both reports claim that the Presidents haven't kept their AD's in the loop about these developments.
The league has yet to hire a commissioner, secure an office space, hire a front-office staff, officials (other than John Cahill as director of basketball officials), scheduled any conference sports, or even drafted official bylaws. That's a long checklist for the 10 schools to work through before the Fall season starts in August.
Athletic Directors around the league needed to have a commissioner in place weeks ago to smooth over their Fall schedules. At the moment, it is nearly impossible to lock down a non-conference date with any of the new Big East schools in the Fall sports without knowing what the conference schedules will look like.
Hopefully, the Spring meetings will help smooth over some of those needs, but the hope, originally, was for the league to have a commissioner ready to take the reigns at those meetings. Now, it appears that former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe (who was run out of town after that conference lost Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M), will be taking charge at the Palm Beach, Florida Ritz Carlton in the interim.
Rumors have WCC commissioner Jaime Zaninovich and former old Big East staffer Dan Gavitt out of the running to lead the new conference. AJerseyGuy.com has now named former Boston Celtics and Lycos head honcho Rich Gotham (a Providence Alum) as a candidate, but nobody can say just how close the Presidents are to closing the deal for an executive.
The NBE Presidents are working to get the league operational, but they haven't communicated with the media or public about their arrangements. They also haven't discussed the matters with their Athletic Directors, which is the real problem, since most university Presidents don't have the experience in big time athletics business that their ADs have.
Once they have a commissioner, it will could weeks to find and lease office space in New York City or elsewhere. Filling out the front-office staff could take months to complete.
Then comes the hard work, scheduling sports, setting up a media relations department and structure, and settling an endless list of details. As AJerseyGuy.com exhaled:
Hundreds, if not thousands of hours of grunt work on small details must be done in a short period of time. The Presidents, who have been the single biggest force for the decline of the quality of college athletics in the last 15 years, will go back to their private sanctuaries and pontificate about the decline in the standards of college athletics, totally unaware or not caring that they were largely responsible.
The timeframe was notably short to create a new conference structure when the Catholic 7 Presidents cut their deal with the old Big East (now The American) to exit this Summer. Pressure and big money from Fox Sports pushed them into a tight timeframe, and now the clock is ticking down to the deadline.
It is understandable that some of these moves could have taken a while to complete, but the reports of ADs being held out of the process of set-up is concerning. At the very least, their expertise and experience in running athletic departments and handling their scheduling and non-conference arrangements would be of assistance in making the calls that the Presidents need to at the moment.