I may be a few days late with writing about this story, but the fallout is still a topic in the blogosphere and I heard Mike Leach and Jack Arute discussing the topic yesterday on their show on Rivals Radio on Sirius XM. On Sunday, an article was published in the Boston Globe where Gene admitted to blocking UConn's bid for entrance in the Big East. According to the article, Gene was quoted as saying:
"We didn't want them in," he said "It was a matter of turf. We wanted to be the New England team."
That BC is blocking UConn from entering the ACC should be no big surprise to anyone. Bad blood as always existed between the two schools since BC left for the ACC and UConn sued BC, the University of Miami, DeFilippo, Leahy, and the ACC. When it first came out that UConn was trying to gain admittance to the ACC and was being blocked, most BC fans knew, without saying anything or being told, that BC was probably the one's doing the blocking. I have no problem with blocking UConn from the ACC and agree with DeFilippo that this is about turf. BC wants to be the only New England team in a major BCS conference. However, Gene said something that did not need to be said and certainly not said on the record. His admittance that BC is actively blocking UConn's entrance to the ACC just gives UConn more fuel for its fire against BC.
Gene's comments about UConn, however, were not the biggest news out of this article. In the article, Gene is quoted once again, citing ESPN as the driving force behind the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC, rather than other Big East schools:
"We always keep our television partners close to us," he said. "You don't get extra money for basketball. It's 85 percent football money. TV- ESPN- is the one who told us what to do. This was football; it had nothing to do with basketball."
The idea that ESPN is the one who dictated to the ACC what schools to add caused a whirlwind of outcry. My initial reaction was one of face-to-palm. It seemed that Gene was just drawing negative press to the ACC and, more importantly, to BC. Soon after his comments, major media outlets such as the New York Times, CBS, and the Daily News picked up on the story, pointing to how major were Gene's comments.
It is not that what Gene said was particularly shocking, but it was simply that he said it. I think most people, if they were honest with themselves, would be able to admit that ESPN exercises more power in the college football world than should be allowed. Money from ESPN television deals has been a major driving force behind conference realignment. With a nod and a wink, most people understood that expansion was being undertaken to pull in more media markets for each conference, perhaps with the tacit direction of ESPN. So when the Athletic Director of a major university in a major BCS conference is admitting publicly and on the record that ESPN was a part of the decision making process of which schools the ACC should add, it was a major story. The comments immediately illicited accusations that ESPN was operating a monopoly and was in violation of anti- trust laws, not the first time this has happened to ESPN.
The ACC, for its part, immediately went into damage control mode, stating that ESPN did not dictate the moves of the ACC's expansion. A few days later after the original article appeared in the Boston Globe, Gene issued an apology, backhanded though it may have been, for his comments.
I don't mind Gene's comments about blocking UConn. I don't think he needed to state it publicly that he was actively blocking UConn, but at least he's looking after BC's best interests. I am still divided on his comments regarding ESPN. Was it the smart thing to state that ESPN was, from what it seems, involved in the decisions regarding ACC expansion? Probably not, especially considering the ACC's quick statement refuting his comments. But, it did point out the elephant in the room and was, to an extent, a breath of fresh air about what really is driving expansion and conference realignment. My biggest complaint about Gene's comments is that it has brought negative attention on BC from the media, but perhaps this may be a wake up call to the board of trustees and other higher ups at BC to reign in their AD. In the long run, I don't think this will have much of an effect on anything. UConn fans will continue to complain that they are being slighted by the ACC because of BC (and ESPN) but that's their problem. If there is anything positive to be taken out of this mess, it is the knowledge that Gene is at least keeping the Huskies out of the ACC.