As Cincinnati Coach Mick Cronin was leading his No. 11 Bearcats to a 72-56 win over Marshall at the Civic Center, the news broke that seven Big East schools — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova — voted unanimously to exit the conference. The seven Catholic schools want to play in a league that isn’t dictated by football.
Cronin, a Big East head coach since 2006, was asked about the news after the game, and didn’t hold back. Here’s what he said:
I don’t blame them. My take is it’s a shame that football, one sport, has dictated all this, and the money that one sport is swinging around and swaying universities to make the decisions. We’re sitting in a state (West Virginia) where the state school is playing 800 miles as their closest road game. It’s ridiculous.
Don’t tell me that people care about student-athletes. That’s the biggest … My problem is coaches get hit all the time. (Cincinnati football coach) Butch Jones, my good friend, he just left to go to Tennessee to take the Tennessee job. He didn’t break a contract. There’s a buyout in the contract. He could have gotten fired, they’d have paid him his money and that wouldn’t have made him a bad guy.
We take a lot of heat. Let me tell you something. Coaches, we all started coaching — me, Tommy Herrion — for nothing. My first job at Woodward High School, we played here in the Civic Center, I didn’t have enough money to buy a tie. We care about kids. Lost in the shuffle in all this is our volleyball team, our soccer team, Marshall’s tennis team. I have a daughter and she’s going to pick a school and I’m going to let her go to a school where she has to take two or three flights to go play her game if she’s an athlete, and she’s there to get her education? It’s all ridiculous. Let’s call it what it is.
I’ve thought about this long and hard and I’ve waited to say this. If it’s all about this much money and money grabbing, the players need to get paid.
But what does he do with his team, undefeated and highly ranked, as this turmoil rolls around it? Cincinnati could be right in the middle possibly searching for a new conference to call home if the remaining Big East football schools can’t hold things together. He said:
What I’ve learned, especially when you’re coaching at a high elite-level school, you have to make sure you’re talking to your players and managing their minds and keeping their mental state in the right place, no matter what it is — that stuff, other stuff. You’d be amazed at what distracts a young guy. It doesn’t distract me. I’m older.
Me personally, my job is I have team that, if it stays healthy, has a chance to have a really special season. I’m not going to let anything distract them. They’re going to enjoy it. We’re going to win as many as we can, try to get as good as we can and take a magic ride in March. And I’m not going to let any of this distract them. So they’re not going to see me distracted, because there’s nothing I can do about it, at the end of the day. The only thing I can do about for our university is do what I’m doing now, keeping our guys focused and continuing to show we have an elite basketball program. Other than that, there’s nothing I can do about it anyway.
It’s a shame that’s the news, instead of our team. There’s been a lot of distractions in our city and it’s a shame that’s not the news.
Now everyone waits and sees when and where the next realignment shoe drops.