June 9, 2008

Tranghese's legacy of success in Big East

Five years ago, in May 2003, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese spoke with more than a bit of hyperbole about Miami's pending decision on whether to leave his conference for the ACC.

During a news conference at the Big East annual meetings, Tranghese said that if Miami decided to leave, "this will be the most disastrous blow to intercollegiate athletics in my lifetime."

OK, so he was wrong on that. But Tranghese – who announced last week that he would step down as Big East leader at the end of the 2008-09 academic year — still deserves credit for keeping the Big East from breaking up when Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech left for the ACC.

Tranghese, 64, has been with the Big East since its inception in 1979 as a seven-team basketball league – he was the league's first full-time employee – and has been commissioner since 1990. It now is a 16-team basketball behemoth and has eight teams that play football.

To replace the trio that left for the ACC, Tranghese brought in Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida for football. The Louisville and Cincinnati additions actually have helped the league get stronger in basketball, though the conference has suffered a bit in football with the departures. At the same time, victories in three BCS games in the past three seasons – West Virginia over Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl and over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl earlier this year, and Louisville over Wake Forest in the 2007 Orange Bowl – have hushed critics of the league as a football entity.

In fact, during a teleconference last week, Tranghese said WVU's 38-35 upset of Georgia in the '06 Sugar Bowl was the most memorable game – in any sport – in his tenure with the league. That 2005 season was the first without BC, Miami or Virginia Tech, and WVU's upset of the Bulldogs "took the burden off of everybody's shoulders," Tranghese said.

Tranghese was the fourth most-powerful commissioner in college athletics, behind the Big Ten's Jim Delany, the SEC's Mike Slive and the ACC's John Swofford. His departure means Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe – who has been in his post for a bit more than eight months – moves up a spot in the commissioner pecking order.

Tranghese was on the negotiating team when the NCAA received a $6 billion contract from CBS for its basketball tournament and has been chairman of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee and the lead administrator for the BCS. He said the toughest part of stepping down will be missing the games: "I've had the best seat in the house for the last 30 years."

At the same time, not traveling definitely will be a plus. "I have an incredible fear of flying that's only gotten worse. I really detest it," he said during his teleconference. "In order to do this job right, you have to go out and see all of our people."

The league is expected to conduct a national search for a new commissioner. As for who's next, Tranghese said his replacement should come from the Big East family.


• Washington linebacker E.J. Savannah – who was the Huskies' leading tackler last season with 111 – is expected to miss the first two games of the season after breaking his arm. Washington's first two games are against Oregon and BYU. The school said Savannah, who was suspended for spring practice, sustained his injury in a non-football incident. The Seattle Times reported he broke it arm-wrestling.

• The hits just keep on coming for Syracuse. Junior wide receiver Mike Williams, the Orange's best offensive player, will miss the season for academic reasons. Syracuse scored just 24 touchdowns last season, and Williams was responsible for 10 of them.

• California announced last week that coach Jeff Tedford would "jump into the cyber-communication world" with a blog on the school's athletic department Web site (calbears.cstv.com). Tedford plans on giving updates via the blog as often as possible, the school said. The first update we'd like to see: Who's the starting quarterback for 2008.

• Nice first game for Hawaii. Not only do the depleted Warriors open at Florida on Aug. 30, the game will kick off at 12:30 p.m. local time in Gainesville. For those of you who haven't been outside in Florida at mid-day during late August, here's a little factoid: It's hot as hell.

• The Louisville tailback depth chart continues to thin out, as redshirt freshman Dale Martin is planning to transfer. He is the third tailback to leave this offseason. Anthony Allen, who led the Cardinals in rushing last season, also is transferring, and George Stripling was booted off the team.

•The Division I-AA Gateway Conference is no more. It is being re-named, effective immediately, to the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Please, do not call it the Missouri Valley Conference. A league news release notes that while the league will share the Missouri Valley name, the Missouri Valley Conference and the Missouri Valley Football Conference will remain separate entities. Five MVFC members also are in the MVC: Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois. It will be interesting to see if any of the MVFC members eventually join the MVC "full-time" (the other schools are North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Western Illinois and Youngstown State).

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.


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