Two things in his background undoubtedly make him attractive to DeGioia: He was chairman of the NCAA tournament selection committee in 2007-2008, meaning he has a lot of contacts in the television world and has been involved in network negotiations in the past. He’s also Catholic, which probably is not a requirement but is a plus for a group dubbed the Catholic 7.
Not surprisingly, O’Connor didn’t want anyone labeling him a candidate this early in the process. “I’m not a candidate,” he said earlier this week. “As far as I know they aren’t even at a point where they’re identifying candidates — me or anyone else.”
That might be technically true but, according to people with knowledge of the situation, DeGioia, through an intermediary, has felt out O’Connor about the job.
“I’m very happy at George Mason,” O’Connor said, confirming he’s not planning to retire anytime soon. “But everyone has an obligation to keep their options open and look at opportunities if they should come up.
In non-political speak, that means if DeGioia and the new league offer O’Connor a job likely to pay $1 million a year or more with national visibility and the chance to put a stamp on what will be a national entity, O’Connor would be hard-pressed to say no. He currently makes $300,000 a year at George Mason.
The other name that came up almost as soon as the new league was announced was Mike Tranghese, the retired commissioner of the Big East. Tranghese, 69, ran that conference for almost 20 years and was there at its creation as the right-hand man to Dave Gavitt. But he was apparently eliminated by the Catholic 7 presidents because most hold a grudge against him for bringing football into the conference in the 1990s.
DeGioia declined comment through a Georgetown spokesman on Friday.
College presidents are glorified fundraisers — none more so than DeGioia. The new league is his chance to put a financial stamp on the school he has run since 2001. The irony in this story is that it was the greed of the Big East presidents almost two years ago that led to all of this. Presented with a new ESPN contract that would have more than tripled the money the football schools were receiving and doubled the money the basketball schools were receiving, they voted against accepting the offer — going against the advice of then-commissioner John Marinatto.
When Marinatto couldn’t get a better TV offer, they fired him and then began deserting the rapidly sinking ship — first Syracuse and Pittsburgh, then Notre Dame, then Rutgers and Louisville, and finally the Catholic 7.
Now it appears that the Catholic 7 may launch as early as next season as a two-division, 12-team league with a TV contract that will probably be comparable to what the former Big East schools would have made if they had accepted ESPN’s offer.
In the next few months, the league will formally decide what schools it will invite to join, no doubt after first learning which ones will accept their invitation. It must also resolve two issues with its former conference: who gets to keep the Big East name and who might play their conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. The smart money is on the remaining Big East teams hanging on for dear life to the conference name and MSG preferring the new league, which will have a number of glamour teams, to be its March tenant going forward.
Of course, everyone involved will insist that those battles aren’t about money. Which is exactly what they are about — period.
For more by John Feinstein, go to www.washingtonpost.com/feinstein