CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Is John Marinatto a scapegoat or just a goat?
The answer is probably a little of each.
As a major college athletic director whose opinion I have respected for a few decades told me Tuesday: "Marinatto did what he was asked to do, and then they asked him to resign."
Agreed, but it's also the opinion here that Marinatto contributed to the problems of a conference that in its two decades of a hybrid existence - basketball establishments versus football wannabes - hasn't worked.
The Big East should have been broken apart along football and hoops fault lines about a decade ago, and the fact that it didn't is why the conference is where it is today.
Yes, Marinatto had tough acts to follow in the Big East founder, the late, great Dave Gavitt, and the respected Mike Tranghese, who brought football to the league and then was blindsided by some of those schools and an ACC that needed gridiron help.
However, Marinatto didn't learn from what happened to Tranghese. The former was just as blindsided by the announcement last fall that Pitt and Syracuse were ACC-bound, just as Tranghese was the victim of an end-around by Miami and Co. (first Syracuse and Boston College, but eventually Virginia Tech and BC) about a decade ago.
Let's use West Virginia as an example. WVU became the football giant in the Big East after Miami left, but Mountaineer basketball prospered, too, once the Big East gave WVU all-sports membership in the mid-1990s.
One reason the WVU program has really grown up in the marquee sports is that the athletic leadership became proactive in hiring and trying to keep coaches. The Mountaineers started paying bigger bucks. They got into the arms race.
Do you think WVU could have hired John Beilein or Bob Huggins without the Big East logo on the Coliseum floor? How about seven NCAA Tournament bids - including a Final Four trip - and an NIT championship in the last eight seasons? The Atlantic 10 wouldn't have gotten them there.
West Virginia has won three BCS games, under three coaches and has won 95 games in the last 10 football seasons, with three coaches.
The point is that one of the reasons I think West Virginia really prospered in the last decade is that it was in a conference that always seemed slow to react. WVU saw it could be a big deal in football against the competition, so it went after it.
The Big East, especially under Marinatto, was reactive.
While other conferences and commissioners were helping create their own TV networks or major deals with ESPN, or expanding by taking schools they wanted, the Big East was left to fill voids with lesser lights ... and with Boise State and San Diego State, turning the Big East into the Far East.