The BIG EAST Conference
The BIG EAST Conference enters a new era in 2013-14. The league, which has always competed with integrity and sportsmanship at the highest levels of intercollegiate sports, will move forward as a 10-team consortium that is returning to its heritage, focusing athletically on men's basketball while striding into the future with an eye towards leadership and innovation. The conference will crown champions in 22 sports in 2013-14, the 35th season in its history, with its student-athletes continuing to achieve success in the classroom as well as the athletic arena.
In 2012, the seven BIG EAST schools that do not compete in FBS football decided to return to the type of conference alignment that existed when the league was formed in 1979 and quickly surged to national prominence as a college basketball force. On December 15, 2012, these seven institutions (DePaul University, Georgetown University, Marquette University, Providence College, St. John's University, Seton Hall University and Villanova University) announced their intention to separate from the football-playing schools in the previous BIG EAST and form an independent association.
On March 20, 2013, the seven schools reached an agreement that enabled them to keep the BIG EAST name and establish a new conference entity beginning on July 1, 2013. The schools also assumed the old conference's long-term agreement with Madison Square Garden to host the BIG EAST Men's Basketball Championship, one of the premier events in college athletics. The schools also announced the addition of three distinguished institutions that share the same academic and athletic values -- Butler University, Creighton University and Xavier University -- and forged a landmark, long-term broadcast partnership with FOX Sports. The television agreement will help usher in the new BIG EAST era and afford the conference's schools broad national exposure. Fox Sports and its new national cable network, Fox Sports 1, have the television rights to all BIG EAST games in all sports.
BIG EAST men's basketball teams have enjoyed extraordinary success over the years. Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova have won the national championship, and DePaul, Providence, St. John's and Seton Hall have all made it to the Final Four. The BIG EAST placed three men's basketball teams in the Final Four in 1985 - Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova -- the only time this has occurred in NCAA history. Over the past 10 years, Butler, Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova have each reached the Final Four, with Butler making two trips (in 2010 and 2011). Xavier has also advanced to the Elite Eight twice and the Sweet 16 three other times.
BIG EAST student-athletes have achieved recent success in other sports, as well. A BIG EAST team has won the NCAA women's cross country championship three of the last four years (Villanova won twice and Georgetown once), with one runner-up finish (Providence). Creighton's men's soccer team has reached the NCAA College Cup in each of the past two seasons. Since opening its doors in 1979, the league has won 34 national championships in six different sports, and 137 student-athletes have won individual national titles through 2012-13.
The BIG EAST became a reality on May 31, 1979, following a meeting of athletic directors from Providence, St. John's, Georgetown, Syracuse, Seton Hall, Connecticut and Boston College, which formed the original seven-school alliance. While the membership has evolved, the focus of the BIG EAST has not wavered. The conference reflects a tradition of broad-based programs, led by administrators and coaches who place a steadfast emphasis on academic integrity. BIG EAST student-athletes sport significantly high graduation rates, and the league has always been able to boast that many of its best students are also its best athletes.
The league has long been considered a leader in innovative concepts in promotion and publicity, particularly regarding television. Those efforts have resulted in unparalleled visibility for the conference and BIG EAST student-athletes.
The BIG EAST was the brainchild of Dave Gavitt, who was the conference's first Commissioner and served until 1990. Michael Tranghese, the league's first full-time employee and the right-hand man to Gavitt for 11 years, took over from Gavitt and was commissioner until 2009. John Marinatto was the third commissioner of the BIG EAST, serving from 2009-2012, when he was succeeded by Mike Aresco.
Val Ackerman, who previously served as President of USA Basketball and the founding President of the WNBA, was named the BIG EAST's fifth Commissioner on June 26, 2013.
BIG EAST institutions are now located in seven of the nation's top 35 largest media markets, including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Cincinnati. The BIG EAST has moved its headquarters from Providence, its original location, to New York City.