Are the non-football schools in the unsettled Big East Conference thinking of leaving and creating their own basketball-first league?
The answer, according to Joe Bailey on his third day as interim commissioner, is no.
In a teleconference with reporters on Wednesday, Bailey - who agreed to become the temporary head of the Big East after John Marinatto resigned Monday - declared he had heard no talk of a mass defection. The managing director of an executive sports recruiting firm and former CEO of the Miami Dolphins, among other positions, he actually poked fun at the claim.
"Yeah, I have a particular position on speculation versus reality," he said. "People that are stockbrokers, stock pickers, people that pick games, things of that nature, are all speculators."
What is certain is that Bailey, 66, has inherited a big mess. Marinatto resigned after fewer than three years in the position, and some reports claimed that he was forced out.
His tenure was a rocky one, defined by the departures of conference heavyweights West Virginia, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh. Texas Christian had planned to join the Big East but will go instead to the Big 12 Conference and never play a game as a member of the Big East.
West Virginia will play in the reconstituted Big 12 in 2012. Syracuse and Pitt will begin play in the Atlantic Coast Conference as early as 2013.
Bailey was asked whether he was interested in becoming the full-time commissioner.
"Well, the answer . . . is no with an exclamation point," said Bailey, who believes the conference will find a permanent replacement in three to four months.
He said his reason for not wanting the job is that he is "too senior."
"It's my feeling that the leader of the conference should be the leader for a long period of time," he said, "and [have] a long runway on which to build the conference. So I would not be a good candidate for that reason."
Bailey said his role will be to impart the things he learned during his "40-some" years in athletics. The Big East will consider its present status and how it retains its role in the revenue-rich Bowl Championship Series when it meets May 21-23 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Despite the departures of prestigious members over the last couple of years, Bailey doesn't think the conference's status or influence will be diminished.
He also believes that Boise State and San Diego State, improbable members of the Big East in the minds of many, will join as football-only members in 2013, as planned, despite some speculation to the contrary.
Bailey anticipates that he will not have a role in the negotiations this autumn for a new Big East television contract. He said a consultant has been hired to help with that process.