Some analysis to come on this a bit later, but for now it’s time for the dreaded transcript journalism from Saturday’s press conference with Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed and basketball coach John Thompson III:
Q: Can you speak to why you feel this move in in Georgetown’s interests going forward?
Lee Reed: I think after a lot of consideration, keeping a careful eye on the national landscape as it relates to conference realignment, what our history has been, I think we’re trying to get to a place where the focus was on where we are and what we are philosophically in terms of our model of intercollegiate athletics.
Q: Obviously, Georgetown’s been associated with the Big East for so long. How difficult a decision was this for these seven schools? Obviously, it’s nothing you’d do lightly.
Reed: The Big East Conference, we’ve been associated with it since its beginning in 1979 and all the decisions that we make are never taken lightly. There’s been thoughtful consideration to our membership and the Big East Conference, what that’s meant to us, Georgetown University. They’re never easy decisions, but we thought it was the right time to make this decision and move forward with the other six members of the conference, the non-football playing members of the conference.
Q: Do you know if the nonrevenue sports will also join in this new structure or is it just strictly basketball?
Reed: No, it’s the whole department.
Q: The statement seems to imply you’re leaving the Big East name behind. Are we interpreting that correctly?
Reed: No, I don’t think you are. I think what the statement basically says is that within the structure of the Big East Conference that we have an opportunity as a group to exercise a right – in an orderly fashion – to separate from the conference. The details of all the questions you make, those things have been considered but now is certainly not the time to discuss those in a public setting.
Q: Is this more of a philosophical decision or financial decision or a combination of both?
Reed: I think a combination of both. I think a combination of both. I think you always consider for us putting our student-athletes at the highest level competitively. Exposure’s been important to us. Stability in terms of our model of intercollegiate athletics, our broad-based model of intercollegiate athletics that’s basketball-centric, that’s something that’s important to us. That has defined us for well over a generation. We’re committed to doing that, we’re committed to pursuing that and we think this new structure provides us the best opportunity right now moving forward to do that.
Q: In putting together a new league, how much do travel concerns play a part?
Reed: I think those things have been considered and will continue to be considered, but it’s probably too early to comment. We have thought about [and] will continue to think about the impact it has on all of our student-athletes, all of our coaches and our institution in terms of our current students, our alumni, the entire thing. Everything’s being considered.
Q: When it comes to being a complete department, does that include the football team moving from the Patriot League?
Reed: No, the football team is in the Patriot League.
Q: Given the way the membership of the Big East has changed in the last 15 months, was there anything Mr. Aresco could have done in the last week, I guess, that would have dissuaded this move, or were you guys pretty resolute for some time?
Reed: I think we’ve been focused on what we’ve tried to accomplish. It’s hard to tell what he might have been able to do. I think for us, after multiple conversations and a lot of thought to this, we think this is the right time to do what we’re doing, both as Georgetown University and with the other six institutions in the Big East.
Q: How long has this been in the works? When did you start talking as a group about this?
Reed: I don’t want to talk much about the process at this time. I don’t think that’s really important. I think what’s important is we’re here today. We’re excited about where we’re headed. We’re excited that we will continue to be able to have our student-athletes perform at the very highest level. We’re committed to excellence academically. We’re committed to excellence in terms of competing nationally with our sports, and certainly the development of our student-athletes. The individual development of our student-athletes is something that’s been the core of Georgetown University and it will continue to be so.
Who we are, what we are and what we are about hasn’t really changed.
Q: You mentioned timing being appropriate a couple of times. Was there something specific about this time, mid-December, having to do perhaps with the other schools?
Reed: You know, there’s really no best time, no perfect time for these types of decisions. We felt, again, this was the right time for us to do this.
Q: Did it have to do with the idea there were seven basketball schools with full votes out of the 10? Did that timing matter?
Q: Given the overall instability, how important was it for you to align yourself with schools that were philosophically similar?
Reed: I would say that is something we thought about. Again, our priorities are making sure our student-athletes are able to compete at the highest levels, providing them with the exposure and the platform they need to do that. And stability, defined as Georgetown University having a basketball-centric, 29-sport, broad-based athletic program. That’s where we start and finish all of our conversation.
Q: There were some media reports among many, many media reports the last several days that characterized Georgetown as being among the more reluctant to make this move as a charter member. Was there any truth to that? Can you speak to what I imagine are some degree of mixed feelings about leaving something you helped found?
Reed: No, I don’t think that’s the case. I think we will always be very thoughtful and deliberate in any decisions that we make that has an impact on Georgetown University. We’ve done that. I wouldn’t characterize it that we’ve been slow to the table, so to speak.
In fact, I would go a step further as to say I am fortunate and we are fortunate, this institution and community has been fortunate to have the leadership that we have in President [John J.] DeGioia, who has been at the institution since the mid-70s, that’s been directly involved in intercollegiate athletics since the mid-80s, who serves on the Knight Commission, who has put us in a position to be the Georgetown that we are today. I think that is a benefit. So, we feel really good with where we are and the process we took to get to this point and a lot of work is left to be done. We’ve talked about it and it’s probably the third inning of a nine-inning game. There’s a lot of work left to be done.
Q: Obviously seven schools aren’t the typical size of a conference these days. Is it safe to assume you’ll be looking to grow the membership? Do you have a target number that you’d like?
Reed: No. There’s no target number. I think it would be safe to say that at the right time, at the proper time, those things will be discussed and dealt with.
Q: John, we asked you the other day about your feelings when it was still to be decided. Can you share your thoughts on the decision?
Thompson: As it goes toward Liz’s last question, as I said the other day, this is a decision that is not an emotional decision. So getting to this point had nothing to do with Georgetown, Georgetown’s position as a charter member and not wanting to pull apart because of those ties and that allegiance. I think at this point, based on the collegiate landscape, our leadership believes this is the right thing to do. I’m excited about where we’re going to go.
Now, there are a lot of questions that still need to be answered and a lot of questions we probably know the answer to and it’s not time to share publicly. So, this is a new phase we’re excited to be a part of.
Q: Seeing as how the conference is appearing to be basketball-centric, basketball being the main sport, you being the basketball coach, do you kind of like that future with where basketball is the main [sport]?
Thompson: That goes to, and I’m glad to hear some of you guys using this, the common philosophical link is not religion. It’s basketball. So we talk about a basketball-centric conference. I have felt comfortable about that. Georgetown has never changed in that regard, regardless of who we’re in conference with or who we’ve been in a conference with or who we will be in a conference with, that’s something that’s important. As much as these seven schools are starting this process of stepping out, I said this the other day – we’re Georgetown.
I think part of what you guys, I’ll stop short of saying your job to do, is to clump us all together. As much as we’re stepping out there together, we’re much different and unique from the other six schools. So we’re Georgetown.
Q: Is it sad to you that you basically grew up in this conference?
Thompson: Sad? No.
Q: Was there a specific tipping point in the realignment process that made these seven schools seek out new opportunities?
Reed: No. I just think it’s been watching the whole thing unfold. What we’ve tried to do is assess every move as it related to the Big East Conference but specifically as it related to Georgetown University. Not one thing made us make this decision.
Q: Were considerations made to stay in the Big East or leaving with these seven schools or were there other options available to Georgetown?
Reed: I will tell you it is our responsibility to do our due diligence and put the university, put our athletics program, put our student-athletes and coaches in the best position possible. Right now, we feel this is the best position possible. We feel this is the best opportunity to continue to excel in our broad-based basketball-centric model. That’s been who we are. It’s given us a lot of success and we’re proud of it and we’re excited about the future.
Q: Coach, you said the other day a lot of research was underway and a lot more needed to be done before it was clear what served Georgetown’s interests best. You weren’t sure whether this was the way to go. Is there anything that’s given you piece of mind or given you the clarity?
Thompson: I wasn’t not clear then. Mr. Reed just said we’re in the third inning of a nine-inning game. I think that’s a good way to look at it. As I said then, we’re not just going to jump out here without our president, our director of athletics, our community is not going to just jump out here without careful analysis. We’re still going through some of that so that has already come to a conclusion. There’s obviously a lot of questions that still need to be answered and sorted through. Some have been. We’re still working on it.
Q: How much has the speed of this process, not just for Georgetown and the six other schools, but across the NCAA landscape, how unsettling is that or how difficult is that administratively to try to react to these things that seem to happen at breakneck speed and force people into decisions you’re not necessarily – I know you’ve said you’re prepared for it, but it’s difficult to be prepared for everything going on throughout the landscape.
Reed: Well, that’s what we get paid to do. I don’t think we’ve been forced anywhere. I think we’ve re-assessed where we want to be. We’ve been consistent with who we are and where we want to go, so I really don’t feel we’ve been forced to do anything. In fact, I’m very excited about the opportunities before us to continue to grow our model, something we believe in and something that’s based in high academic achievement, excelling, trying to win national championships in sports and developing our student-athletes as we do. That really hasn’t changed.
Q: Can you put any meat on the bones of “orderly fashion” from the statement and I believe you said earlier as a group that you’ll move toward a new structure in an orderly fashion? Could that be as early as next fall 2013?
Reed: Hard to speculate on timing. What I meant by orderly is we have operated in a very transparent way as it relates to Mike Aresco and the conference and other members. I think for us, it’s best to operate and proceed in that way. We’ll continue to do that. We’ll continue to work with our partners at the Big East Conference and other member institutions and continue to move forward in an orderly fashion, to move forward in a transparent fashion, to move forward in a fashion that doesn’t necessarily do harm to others but puts us in the best position we need to be in.
Q: Thank you. What is your best sense of when the new conference will take on its identity and start its new schedule?
Reed: I don’t have a best sense that I’m willing to share now.
Q: Coach, even if it is in the third inning of a nine-inning game at this point, do you sense already more stability for your program and your school or is this still feel like it is in flux or did you feel stable regardless anyway?
Thompson: I felt stable. We’re Georgetown. I’m going to say something most of you in this room have heard me say many times and you’re probably going to hear me a lot in the near future here. Georgetown was an outstanding before the Big East. We’ve been an outstanding program during our time in the Big East. And we’re going to be an outstanding program with whatever tomorrow holds. So the stability is up on the Hilltop. The stability is within our institution. Whoever wants to be with us can be with us.