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Big East hires new commissioner

The Big East Conference conducted a national search to find a new commissioner to replace the retiring Mike Tranghese, yet needed to look no farther than its home office in Providence, R.I.

John Marinatto, who has served as the Big East's senior associate commissioner since 2002, was named the third commissioner in league history Wednesday after a unanimous vote of its chancellors and presidents.

Marinatto continues a local lineage to the Big East commissioner's office. He follows Dave Gavitt (1979-90) and Tranghese ('90-present) after working for both at Providence, where he rose from student manager to sports information director to athletic director of 14 years.

The promotion becomes effective July 1, 2009.

"I am truly, truly humbled and honored to follow (Tranghese) and Dave Gavitt as the third commissioner of this league," Marinatto said in a teleconference. "I have always firmly believed in the premise that you cannot really move positively in a forward direction unless you respect, understand and appreciate where you come from.

"In this regard, I believe I have a rather unique perspective as it relates to both the genesis and the evolution of the Big East Conference, and for this reason, have a sense of passion and ownership to see it continue to move forward in this direction.

"We are more different in our makeup than other conferences in this country, and there are those in intercollegiate athletics who look at us and wonder not only how we survived, but how we are able to succeed as often and as we do. It all begins with the top, where we are so blessed to have a strong group of presidents and chancellors and athletic directors."

Where Gavitt's legacy was in building the Big East into a basketball power, Tranghese's was in saving the conference from crumbling after the defections of Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2003 by adding Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida in football and DePaul and Marquette in basketball.

Marinatto's legacy will be determined by how he guides a league that has eight members in football and 16 in basketball through challenges such as scheduling conflicts.

"John has a passion and a commitment, and in many ways, he's grown up with the conference," said Georgetown president Jack DeGioia, who co-chaired the search committee with Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg. "His career mirrors that of the conference. He has a history of engagement within the Big East.

"This will enable us to manage a beautiful transition from one extraordinary commissioner to our new commissioner, who I think is going to serve the conference with great honor and distinction over the course of the coming years."

Marinatto has been Tranghese's right-hand man, serving as the Big East's chief operating officer and has been responsible for the daily administration of the conference office. Marinatto oversees all administrative operations and has been the daily contact with the league's athletic directors regarding governance and operational matters.

A member of the NCAA management council and business and finance cabinet, he serves as the conference's representative to the NCAA leadership council and was the chief financial and business officer of the Bowl Championship Series from 2002-04.

"I've known John personally for 40 years, and over last six years, he's served with such incredible distinction," Tranghese said. "There is not a thing that he has not been engaged with intimately, whether it's television negotiations, whether it's the BCS, whether it's football, whether it's scheduling or whether it's interacting with our presidents."

Marinatto said his first order of business will be to improve the Big East's bowl tie-ins. Although the league receives an automatic, at-large bid to a BCS bowl, it hopes to secure better berths for its other bowl-eligible teams.

The Big East has ties to six other bowl games: the Gator, Brut Sun, Meineke Car Care, Papajohn's.com, International and St. Petersburg.

"We're on solid ground in so many areas," Marinatto said. "As we follow our current strategic plan in moving forward, the next item on our agenda in terms of our most immediate challenge is, once the next BCS contract is signed, is to jump into our bowl situations in terms of trying to solidify the next four-year cycle of bowls. That's our next top priority."

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