John Marinatto

Big East confirms Marinatto’s ‘resignation’ as commish


UPDATED 10:19 a.m. ET: In a press release, John Marinatto confirmed that he has “resigned” his position as the conference’s commissioner.

“After a great deal of thought and prayer, I have decided to step down as Commissioner of the Big East conference and formally advised our Board of Directors,” said Marinatto in a statement.  “I have been associated with this league for my entire adult life and have had the tremendous honor of serving as its Commissioner since 2009.   Our recent expansion efforts have stabilized the Conference for the long term, and we are likewise well positioned for our very important upcoming television negotiations.  As a result, I felt this was the right time to step aside and to let someone else lead us through the next chapter of our evolution.

“I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish and would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank both our membership and my staff for their unwavering encouragement, support and loyalty — especially during this past year.  I am extremely confident about the future of this league that I love very much.”

Marinatto took over as the Big East’s commissioner july 1, 2009, replacing Mike Tranghese.

“I know I speak for the entire Conference when I express my sincere gratitude to John for his leadership and dedicated years of service,” said Dr. Judy Genshaft, USF president and Chair of the Big East conference.  “John helped build the BIG EAST into what it is today, and played a critical role in our successful expansion efforts, and for all of that we thank him.”

Joseph A. Bailey III, former CEO of the Miami Dolphins, will replace Marinatto on an interim basis.

“The Big East has a terrific future,” said Bailey. “I’m excited to participate in shaping a new structure and strategic plans for the Conference, and I look forward to engaging on these matters with the leadership of all of the Conference’s members, old and new alike.”

In the release, the Big East also offered a rough outline as to how a successor for Marinatto will be selected:

The Conference also announced that it has retained The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to review its organizational design and structure.  As the BIG EAST transitions to a national conference, its members will take this opportunity to position the Conference to maximize its media rights, branding and other strategies.

The search for the new Commissioner of the BIG EAST will be chaired Dr. Gregory H. Williams, the President of the University of Cincinnati and a member of the BIG EAST Executive Committee.


Well, this is certainly an unexpected development.  Then again, given the number of big-name defections that have hit the Big East the past couple of years, not really.

According to Brett McMurphy of, John Marinatto tendered his resignation as the conference’s commissioner Monday morning.  July 1 would’ve been the third anniversary of Marinatto’s hiring as the third commissioner in the history of the conference.

No reason was given for Marinatto’s decision, or if the decision was a “forced resignation” ahead of landing a new television deal as some already suspect.  A conference official told CFT via email that “a statement addressing Marinatto’s status will be released later today.”

Under Marinatto’s leadership, the Big East has lost West Virginia (to the Big 12 in 2012), Pittsburgh and Syracuse (to the ACC in 2013) during the last big round of conference expansion last year.  While the Big East subsequently added Boise State, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State and SMU for next season as well as Temple this year, Marinatto has received a heavy amount of criticism for his perceived inability to stave off bigger leagues from plucking key members from the conference.

As noted by Mark Ennis of the Big East Coast Bias blog, this is a particularly bad time for the Big East to be searching for a commissioner, given the fact that a new playoff format is currently being debated and is expected to be finalized sometime in July.

Suffice to say, we’ll have more on this story as the situation develops.

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles
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Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.

Penn State fires offensive coordinator John Donovan

Penn State football practice, Sept 9, 2015

Penn State has fired offensive coordinator John Donovan, the program announced Sunday.

“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in the last five years,” head coach James Franklin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Donovan originally hooked up with Franklin when the two were at Maryland, then coordinated his offenses at Vanderbilt and later Penn State.

Despite playing with what many project to be a future first-round pick in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ranked 101st nationally in scoring, 108th in total offense and 80th in yards per play.

Penn State dropped its final three games of the regular season and averaged only 14.6 points in its five losses.

Purdue retains head coach Darrell Hazell, fires both coordinators

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It’s never a good thing when a head coach has to fire both of his coordinators on the same day. Of course, it’s never a good thing to be 6-30, either.

Both are realities at Purdue, as the Boilers announced Sunday head coach Darrell Hazell will return for a fourth season in 2016, but offensive coordinator John Shoop, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and defensive line coach Rubin Carter will not.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in a statement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

Purdue, 2-10 in 2015, ranked 115th nationally in yards per play and 112th in yards per play allowed.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

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Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.