May 15, 1998
The Big East Conference
The BIG EAST Conference begins its third year with 13 members in 1997-98. The league was an active participant in the first half of this decade when realignment amongst the major conferences seemed like a regular occurrence after decades of little change.
The BIG EAST added the University of Miami in 1990 and Rutgers University, West Virginia University, and the University of Notre Dame in 1994. The wave of changing league affiliations has slowed, however, and the BIG EAST has returned to receiving attention for the accomplishments of its student-athletes on the athletic playing fields and in the classroom.
During the 1996-97 season, the St. John's men's soccer team won its first NCAA title and six BIG EAST track & field athletes and one relay team won individual NCAA titles. Notre Dame's women's basketball team made its first Final Four appearance in 1997. The Providence women's cross country team won the 1995 NCAA Championship, breaking Villanova's record six-year hold on the title. Notre Dame captured the '95 NCAA women's soccer crown and was runner-up in '96. The BIG EAST placed men's and women's basketball teams in the Final Four in the 1995-96 season.
Individually, the BIG EAST again could boast that some of its best students were also some of its best athletes. For example, Notre Dame men's basketball standout Pat Garrity was named the 1996-97 BIG EAST Player of the Year and was a GTE First Team Academic All-American.
Since the date of its birth, May 31, 1979, The BIG EAST Conference has always pledged to be a proactive - rather than reactive - group. That credo may never have been more in evidence than in 1994 when the league added Rutgers, West Virginia and Notre Dame as full conference members in two separate expansions. In March of '94, the BIG EAST added Rutgers and West Virginia as full time members. Both schools, which boast wide-ranging, successful athletic programs, had been members of The BIG EAST Football Conference. In July, the BIG EAST, then a group of 12, added Notre Dame, one of the nation's most prestigious private institutions.
While the membership has increased, the focus of the BIG EAST remains unchanged. It is a group that reflects a tradition of broad-based programs, led by administrators and coaches who place a constant emphasis on academic integrity. The BIG EAST Conference has enjoyed a leadership role nationally. Its student-athletes own significantly high graduation rates and their record of scholastic achievement notably reflects a balance between intercollegiate athletics and academics.
Any successful consortium enjoys outstanding leadership. Michael Tranghese, the league's first full time employee, and for 11 years the associate of Dave Gavitt, took over the Commissioner's reins in June, 1990, after Gavitt left to take a position with the Boston Celtics. The expansion in membership in the 90s is only a portion of Tranghese's achievements. In his first year at the helm, he administered the formation of The BIG EAST Football Conference. The University of Miami became the league's 10th full member on October 10, 1990. The largest private institution in the Southeast, Miami was a prized addition to a conference already noted for a successful co-existence of academics and athletics.
BIG EAST sports attract the interest of followers in the nation's largest media markets with New England, the New York metropolitan area, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and Florida. Innovative concepts in promotion and publicity, particularly regarding television, have resulted in unparalleled visibility for BIG EAST student-athletes. Exclusive long-range television contracts with CBS and ESPN, Inc. provide BIG EAST basketball with more television exposure than any other conference.
While BIG EAST basketball games are regular sellouts at campus and major public arenas, including the annual BIG EAST Tournament Championship in Madison Square Garden, attendance figures also are significant at BIG EAST soccer, women's basketball and baseball games.
More than 350 BIG EAST athletes have earned All-America recognition and dozens have won individual NCAA national championships. The BIG EAST has been well-represented in U.S. or foreign national and Olympic teams, with several athletes earning gold medals in the summer Olympiads in Atlanta in '96, Barcelona in '92, Seoul in '88 and Los Angeles in '84.
The BIG EAST became a reality on May 31, 1979, following a meeting of athletic directors from Providence College, St. John's, Georgetown and Syracuse Universities. Seton Hall, Connecticut and Boston College completed the original seven-school alliance. Further expansion included Villanova (1980-81), Pittsburgh (1982-83) and Miami (1991-92). Rutgers, West Virginia and Notre Dame began play in 1995-96.
The BIG EAST has its headquarters in Providence where the conference administers to over 5,000 athletes in 19 championship events.