NEWPORT, R.I. - John Marinatto insists that the Big East is stronger now that it has ever been. The Big East commissioner said exactly that during the league's annual football media day Tuesday.
And, well, he's probably right. The basketball side of the conference is arguably the best in collegiate sports. Women's basketball and Olympic sports are thriving. And as the statistics to which Marinatto often points bear out, the football side of the Big East is as competitive as it has ever been.
Here's the thing, though. The Titanic was perhaps the strongest ship ever built to that point and was on its maiden voyage in 1912. Enter the iceberg.
Even the strong don't always survive. And let's face it, when Marinatto talks about the strength of the Big East, it is all relative, right? This isn't a league that is SEC strong or Big Ten strong. It's Big East strong, which means no one has kicked sand in its face.
Of course, Marinatto is no dummy. He knows all that. He isn't standing up in the front of the room feeling bulletproof and inviting all comers. What he's doing is putting up a strong front and working as best he can to make it so. Call it positive reinforcement - if you think good thoughts, strong thoughts, good things will happen.
So don't bother asking him about doomsday scenarios regarding potential conference expansion (other conferences, that is) and how it might all affect his league.
"I've been consistent about not speculating publicly or responding to the speculation of others about the future,'' Marinatto said Tuesday. "Instead, I've continued to tell the story and reinforce the fact that the Big East Conference is stronger today than at any point in our history.''
It's a party line that Marinatto wants from everyone involved in the league. In fact, in the hours prior to Tuesday's football media functions, the second-year commissioner essentially issued a gag order to his coaches, who then passed it along to the players.
You don't know what's happening, so don't even talk about it. Focus on your football teams.
Marinatto, instead, fielded the conference questions. Like the one about the latest in a seemingly endless and tiresome rumor mill that has Memphis poised to join the league.
Ain't happening. At least not right now.
"But that's become a part of what we have to deal with on a regular basis ever since last December,'' Marinatto said, referring to rumors in the wake of the Big Ten's expansion manifesto, which was issued then. "We have decided that instead of commenting on speculation or doing our own speculations publicly, we're going to focus our energies on trying to do whatever we need to do to better ourselves. The best way to keep our conference intact and to grow is to obviously do what we need to do to improve ourselves.''