Mike Tranghese is old.
(How old is he???)
He's so old, that when he started as Commissioner of the Big East, there was no such thing as Big East football.
Okay, that's not really a good joke. It's more like a fact. In 1990, when Mike Tranghese took over for Dave Gavitt, Big East football was still a year away from existing. See! I didn't lie. Now he leaves with not a Big East Conference that looks a helluva lot different than the one he started with, but one that is arguably the best in basketball and a football version that is slowly but surely reclaiming it's footing.
Today is officially Tranghese's last day in the office where he's worked in some capacity since the league's inception in 1979. ESPN's Brian Bennett sees Tranghese out with a note about how well he handled the mess that was created for him when the ACC raided some of the Big East's better programs.
Tranghese (and Marinatto) deserve credit for picking up the pieces after the raid and reforming the league by bringing in South Florida, Louisville and Cincinnati on the football side. Those might not have seemed like sexy picks at the time, and there were many who wondered how the Big East could possibly keep its automatic BCS bid. But Louisville and Cincinnati have both gone to Orange Bowls since, and South Florida has crept into the Top 10 of the polls each of the last two years.
There's certainly many arguments to be made for and against the many decisions that have been made under Tranghese's watch. Should Notre Dame have been forced to join for all sports (i.e. football) or not at all? Should we have tried harder to get Penn State in the league? Should Big East basketball contract? Should Big East football expand? You can probably answer all of them quickly but, obviously, all are not simple solutions.
Just as he leaves, the Big East is once again moving into uncharted territory with the addition of Big East lacrosse. Expect to see the league become a national power very quickly and establish itself as a premiere conference as the sports changes and grows. Such moves will be Tranghese's lasting legacy as the commissioner who took a regional basketball conference and turned it into a full-fledged multi-sport championship factory.
Mike took to The Sporting News to pen a goodbye letter in which he talks about the perseverance that was required to be a part of the Big East Conference all these years. He even comes clean with the truth that, when Miami, VT and Boston College left, the league even entertained the idea of disbanding altogether:
Looking back, you'd have to look at keeping the conference together when the ACC made its moves as a turning point as well. We were in survival mode at that time, and for a few days things were so stressful and there was so much uncertainty. We were setting up a way to dissolve the league. But we persevered and found a better solution.
And of course Mike takes a little time to recognize a certain game that encapsulates the Big East best:
...the six overtime game between Syracuse and Connecticut only reinforced all the great things we've felt about the tournament over the last 30 years.
Mike's replacement, John Marinatto, sees Tranghese off by letting everyone know that the more things change, the more they stay the same:
Appearance-wise, not much will change around here Wednesday. I'm not even planning on switching offices to move from senior associate commissioner to become the Big East Conference's third commissioner. But my responsibilities are going to change a whole lot.
Marinatto mentions that bowl affiliations are the big topic du jour, which is a welcome note to Big East fans tired of watching their 3rd and 4th best teams toil in crummy bowl games in mid-December. Marinatto benefits from the same thing his predecessor benefited from. He's a longtime company-man filling the shoes he's been groomed to wear.
You earned the gold watch, Mike. Be well. Swing by a media day now and again to let us know how you're doing.