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COMMENTARY - Big East Commish Steps Down
Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese
Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese
Posted Jun 5, 2008

Mike Tranghese was a pioneer in many ways for college football and the Big East conference, but his legacy could be something very different. Richard Cirminiello looks back on Tranghese's impact.

Mike Tranghese Steps Down

The Big East commissioner steps down

By Richard Cirminiello 

On Thursday, long-time Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese announced he’d be giving up his post on June 30, 2009, setting off a one-year victory lap for an icon in Eastern athletics. 

From humble beginnings, he went on to become the Big East’s very first employee in 1979, and an able successor to Dave Gavitt.  While Gavitt gave birth to the league, it was his protégé, Tranghese, who raised it and helped usher it into manhood since 1990. 

For the last 18 years, Tranghese has been to Big East athletics what David Stern has been to the NBA, growing the product and maximizing revenues, always wearing a smile on his face and humility on his sleeve.

Tranghese has had hundreds of accomplishments over the last couple of decades, from being a leader in television negotiations to elevating the popularity and reach of Big East basketball from its peak in the 1980s by luring Notre Dame out of independence and building a 16-team super conference. However, his legacy will forever revolve around his work with the league’s football programs. 

First, Tranghese brought perennial powerhouse Miami to the Big East in 1991, giving it a national identity for the first time, and then he led the league out of the abyss when the ‘Canes bolted for the ACC, taking Virginia Tech and Miami with them. Does Tranghese deserve heat for not seeing the exodus coming or taking the necessary steps to prevent it from happening? Absolutely. There’s no denying it happened on his watch. Still, he deserves double the credit for rallying what was left of the football schools, stopping the hemorrhaging, and eventually doing the improbable—building the league back to a point where its automatic BCS berth was preserved. 

When everyone across the county was writing the Big East’s epitaph, Tranghese was calmly leading the conference back to higher ground. Like it or not, the Big East remains one of the Big Six because Tranghese wouldn’t let the alternative happen. Meanwhile, the ACC hasn’t exactly grown into a superconference. Its last BCS win was when?

Tranghese is a part of dying breed of college commissioners.  While he’s plenty powerful and can be feisty when it’s necessary, he’s forever humble, easy to connect with, and has always had a solid relationship with the media. Unlike some of today’s major conference commissioners, he doesn’t feel the need to bully or grandstand in order to make a point. He’s a gentleman in an arena that’s become increasingly vitriolic.

So what’s next for the Big East?  Although Tranghese might consult about his successor, the final decision will be made by the school presidents. The smart money will be an inside choice, someone who already knows the conference and the complexities that come with being its commissioner. Current basketball commissioner Dan Gavitt, the son of the league’s architect, makes a ton of sense, as do senior associate commissioner John Marinatto and football commissioner Nick Carparelli. 

The clock has begun to tick on Tranghese’s tenure at the top of the Big East Conference. What’s next for him remains to be seen.  He might teach, consult, or dive into one of the marketing opportunities that comes across his desk.  Or he can just kick back for awhile and marvel at what he’s accomplished as the Big East commissioner, keeping the momentum going strong on the hardwood and guiding football out of its darkest days earlier in the decade.