LISTEN! STJ-TV Conference Call Audio featuring St. John's University President Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M.
St. John's University President Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M.
"I thank you for your interest in St. John's and your obvious interest in the BIG EAST. Again I emphasize that I am only speaking for St. John's, I am not speaking for the other institutions at all, although some of my answers will overlap. My opening comment is a very simple one. We at St. John's are very excited about this. You know our history, you know the BE is very important to us. Twenty years of the BIG EAST as we originally founded it with the others. The BIG EAST with the football schools for 20 years - great success in those years. And yet again, a new conference - whether it will be called the BIG EAST or go by some other name is yet to be determined, but we're excited about it because we believe we can now play a role in shaping something that is new and different in the world of collegiate athletics, at a time of great change. And, we're convinced this will be better for our student-athletes, and our fans. Our A.D., who can speak for himself in just a moment, the Board of Trustees, the coaches, others at the University - we really have consulted very widely and people are truly excited that this is a good thing."
On the reasons for making the move:
"In the climate in which we're in, it's very hard to have reassurances about too much, because things are changing so quickly. We believe at St. John's that it's important that we shape our future, rather than have it happen to us. In this current context of conference shifting and realignment, we do believe that this move will put us in a stronger strategic position to compete competitively. That is so important for us as an institution and for our student-athletes. Finances didn't drive this decision. But we are confident that this decision will not hurt us financially."
On possible future makeup of the conference:
"It's too premature to know exactly who, but we know there's interest. We'll give consideration to those who are interested. We want to shape as strong a conference as possible. We'd estimate 10 or 12, but want to make sure we have the strength."
On the motivations for the decision:
"Being a partner with the football schools has been wonderful. There's a certain loss we'll feel. It was harder to maintain that focus, when many of the priorities of the conference legitimately had to be on football. And, we supported that. We voted those football schools in over the last 20 years. But as we looked at it and as things were changing we said yes, if we're really going to control our future, shape our destiny and keep that focus on basketball which has so much been a part of our BE tradition, this was clearly the best way to do it for us. That's really how it all transpired."
On departure date from the conference:
"I'm only speaking for St. John's. I would say for St. John's, we want to do this the best possible way for an orderly transition, and I'm sure all my colleagues would feel the same way. The BIG EAST has been important to us and we want to do it in an orderly and respectful way. If we sit down with the football schools and they and we together agree that it's better to do it in 2014... We're talking about what is best for all concerned. We want to leave as good colleagues. We're trying to be good colleagues and we want to leave that way. So, we'll bring our needs to the table and hopefully they will too."
On keeping the BIG EAST name:
"St. John's would love to keep the BIG EAST name, but as President of St. John's, I'd want to hear from the football schools how important it is to them and then we'd come to some resolution. But it would be difficult for us to lose the name, but at the same time that would not stop us in this process.
On a possible timetable moving forward:
"We would like to do it whenever is best for all concerned. We really want to be good colleagues as we leave. St. John's, I'm speaking for now, but I'm sure the other Presidents would feel similarly, that we want to do what is best for everyone who have worked well together for many years. So if we sit down with the football presidents and conclude that X date is the best time, then that's when we'd want to do it. Are there arguments both ways? Definitely, but we have to make that a mutual decision because that's what's fair."
On increasing the athletics budget at St. John's:
"St. John's made a decision a couple of years ago that we had to invest more heavily in men's and women's basketball together. And we have been doing that and I believe that's why our success has been somewhat noticeable. I can't say that we necessarily believe that we'll have to make a bigger investment now, but if that's necessary to make this the conference we want it to be, we're prepared to do that."
On television contract negotiations:
"We will handle going forward the same way we handled coming to this day today, when we made this statement. This was a wonderful process and I was extremely impressed. The Presidents are used to running their own institutions and to put seven in a room to resolve something isn't always easy. With the exception of how complex these matters were, the Presidents worked so well together and there really weren't any disagreement. I'm confident we can do that going forward. We have a very good working relationship. What I foresee happening is that the seven Presidents will meet much more often and on different issues two or three will represent the core group in those discussions and get back to us as a group to make the decisions."
On who is assisting the seven schools:
"Dr. Jack DiGoia is co-chair of the BIG EAST conference and represents the basketball schools. We rotate the chair and co-chair presidents between basketball and football. So, Jack right now is our leader and he's the one who has called together our meetings, etc., and he will continue in that role I'm sure, but it will always be the seven of us deciding together."
On when St. John's plans to exit the conference:
"That is too much of a detail for me to really be able to speak to right now. We just made this announcement. We have to now sit down and talk, not just amongst ourselves but with the football schools. So, all of those issues need to be addressed now. It isn't that they haven't been spoken of, but we are far from resolution because it's just too complex at this point. But, we're very confident we can move it relatively quickly."
St. John's University Director of Athletics Chris Monasch
On the decision making process:
"The decision to do this really looks to the future. We feel it positions St. John's in the best direction for the long-term to create a stable position in an elite league with schools that share common philosophies and priorities."
On the future of St. John's basketball as a perennial tournament team:
"I feel very confident about that. We have all the things in place; the history, the tradition, the commitment, the location, the leadership from our President, board and coaching staff, for us to be successful for the long-term."
On the outlook of the new conference:
"The tone of conversation among the seven schools is that we will be committed to a high level men's and women's basketball conference that is broad based and competitive across all sports across the board. It has always been an emphasis for St. John's to compete at the highest level that we can for the sports that we sponsor and that will continue to be the goal."
On the importance of having elite basketball at St. John's:
"That's the tradition of the school. Men's and women's basketball are the two programs that have the greatest interest from the public and the media. It gives us visibility and it gives us access to the media as well as the platform to educate young men and women consistent with our mission."
On the conference alignment process going forward:
"The feeling is that if we work collegially together then all the parties can get as much as feasibly possible out of the next few months. The league is handling the conversation among the parties. We've worked well in recent years. Some of the changes you've seen have come through a collegial relationship between the football and basketball schools."
On the future of the BIG EAST Tournament at Madison Square Garden:
"That is certainly one of the many details still has to be discussed in the next weeks and months."
On the increased investment by St. John's on the men's basketball program:
"We looked at our commitment across the board and made upgrades in our facilities and increased our commitment to the head coach and his staff. We looked at all the budgets from a travel perspective and a recruiting standpoint and put the support in place to be able to compete in an elite conference. Moving forward, our philosophy is that we will continue to do what we need to in order to compete at this level and even higher."
Men's Basketball Head Coach Steve Lavin
On the possibility of keeping the BIG EAST basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden:
"At this point, it's so early and we've been so locked in on our team, this season and trying to win games as we head into conference play, so it's still just speculation. There are a lot of different scenarios that are talked about, but for us it's a move that we're confident is going to work out well for St. John's. To know all of the specifics at this stage is premature and over the next few weeks and months there is going to be clarity on a lot of the questions."
On how the move benefits St. John's:
"The reason I came to St. John's was that long list of things that make it unique and special. It goes back over a hundred years, before there was even a BIG EAST, this place was always special. Now there will be a new version of the BIG EAST and there have been different versions over the years, but the one constant has been St. John's position to be successful even long after I'm the head coach. They were long before I came here and that's what attracted me to St. John's. I felt the same way as an assistant at Purdue and UCLA in the late 80's and early 90's, then as a head coach at UCLA, then during my seven years in television coming into the Garden broadcasting the Duke-St. John's game with Brent Musburger, and then taking over as the head coach three years ago. The tradition, the heritage, the recruiting base, Madison Square Garden, New York City, really positions us for long-term success. When you look at this group of schools, the seven Presidents, all have fan bases that have real conviction in terms of their loyalty. That's one of the reasons the Presidents moved in this direction, they felt it would provide a brighter future for the conference and the respective basketball programs, and I agree with them."
On how the conference move affects recruiting:
"The rival schools, just because of the competitive nature of it, are going to try to build the argument in their favor and undermine the strengths of the program and we go through that every year. It was no different at UCLA and in any conference in the country that's what goes on. What uniquely positions St. John's is our bright future because of the things that have been in play for over a hundred years. That's what attracted me to come out of broadcasting, it's what attracted all the players we got to see this evening, it's what attracted the players who came to play for Carnesecca, Lapchick and McGuire. St. John's is tough to beat."