Our friend Sally Jenkins wrote a column on the death of Big East this Thursday, and quoted University of Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, who was very passionate about the conference's widely perceived demise:
“The whole thing is tragic,” Cronin said. “Nobody cares about student-athletes. All anybody cares about is money. Everybody in the NCAA, everybody in college administration, they talk about academics and student-athletes. If people cared about student-athletes, West Virginia wouldn’t be in the Big 12 with 10 teams flying 800 miles to their closest home game. That’s really conducive to studying. The whole thing is a hypocrisy . . .
“The economy has trickled down . . . so everybody’s just, ‘Well, let’s change leagues because we can solve our money problems.’ And people that suffer are the student-athletes. They’re the ones that suffer. And the fans, because, obviously, what made college sports so special is really tradition. The fact that we’re sitting here, and this is the last Big East tournament is beyond ridiculous. . . . It’s only gone for one reason: money.”
Cronin's stance, generally construed as anti-realignment if not flat-out anti-capitalism, made a few waves over the past few days as the Big East's final season in its recognizable form wrapped up in Madison Square Garden. If he's arguing that economic incentives that fail to accrue to the actual players drive realignment–and, logically, just about every other recent protocol change in collegiate athletics—he's right. He's also impugning the priorities of a system that has benefitted him greatly. Cronin made $900,000 in base salary this year–and will make $1.25 million annually starting next year–to coach the Cincinnati Bearcats to 9th place in the ill-fated Big East. His job is to get the Bearcats to the NCAA tournament; this year, he'll likely be successful, and his players may find themselves playing their first game as a nine-seed in Salt Lake, a far-flung destination that will surely disrupt their academic schedules. The tournament is a priority for the university because it provides money and exposure, and a big chunk of that money goes to Cronin.
So if you're going to listen to anyone's tirade about the corrupt priorities of the NCAA, make it the Cincinnati tri-state area's second highest-paid public official. He knows whereof he speaks.