From the Big East getting three one seeds in the NCAA Tournament to TCU being a bowl buster during the era of the BCS,the Big East was that conference that challenged all of the major conference teams.But to look at the fall of the greatest basketball conference ever,we have to take a look at the history of the conference.
Founding:The early years
In 1979 new scheduling requirements meant that independent schools Providence,St. John’s,Syracuse,and Georgetown met to discuss a potential founding of a conference centered in the northeast.Other schools invited were Seton Hall,Holy Cross,Rutgers,Connecticut,and Boston College with Rutgers and Holy Cross declining to join.Villanova joined a year later in 1980 and three years later Pittsburgh joined in 1982.In 1982,Penn State applied for membership but was denied after only five out of eight schools accepted (they needed six out of eight).
A decade after the conference’s founding,Big East members decided to become a major football conference.Thus they added five schools including Rutgers, Miami, Temple, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. Miami was the only full time member immediately but Rutgers became a full member in 1995-96 and Notre Dame became a non-football member that same year.Virginia Tech became a full member in 2000-01 and Temple,a football only member until 2004, was forced out of the conference for many reasons including inadequate facilities,and playing success.
Turmoil and Realignment
The unusual structure of “football” and “non-football” schools led to turmoil within the conference. In 2003, the ongoing reports of tensions between the football schools and the basketball-only schools finally exploded into a months-long public tug-of-war between the Big East and the Atlantic Coast Conference over several Big East members. The end result was that three Big East schools:Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College—moved to the ACC, while five schools moved to the Big East from Conference USA—Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Marquette, and DePaul.
The addition of the three football schools, along with Big East non-football member Connecticut moving up to the Big East football conference, ensured that the league would keep the minimum eight teams needed to keep its BCS bid.DePaul and Marquette, were added to get the Milwaukee and Chicago television markets and add two good basketball programs to an already great basketball conference.
In 2010, Texas Christian University accepted an invitation to join the conference as an all-sports member beginning in the 2012–13 academic year.Big East schools compete in Division I. Most of the football-playing schools play in Division I FBS, while Georgetown and Villanova have Division I FCS (formerly I-AA) football programs. Georgetown football competes in the Patriot League. Villanova has competed in the Colonial Athletic Association football conference since 1988, dating back to its time as a completely separate conference known as the Yankee Conference, which merged with the Atlantic 10 Conference in 1997, then in 2007 the CAA took over management of the A-10 football conference (which happened after Northeastern University joined the CAA in 2005, giving them the six football-playing members needed to start sponsoring football, which was eventually dropped by Northeastern after 2009). In September 2010, in the wake of a Division I realignment that affected a number of conferences around the country, the Big East asked Villanova to consider becoming a football member. The school once considered the offer, which required the school to substantially expand its football budget, as well as expand its stadium to meet FBS requirements or find another suitable venue in the Philadelphia area. Villanova presented a plan to the Big East football members on April 10, 2011, which included the use of PPL Park as a football stadium, but the league declined to schedule a vote to offer membership on the objections of Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Rutgers to the plan. On September 17, 2011 Syracuse, a charter member of the conference, and Pittsburgh announced that they would be leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference.Both schools originally intended to fulfill their commitment to the 27-month waiting period. TCU also reversed its decision and accepted an invitation from the Big 12 Conference to move there.
and countersuits were launched by the school and conference. Eventually, a settlement was reached with allowed West Virginia’s departure for 2012 in exchange for sizable compensation.Syracuse and Pittsburgh then used the acquiescence of the Big East to West Virginia’s departure to challenge the validity of their own commitment, and the Big East agreed to a settlement with both schools in July 2012 to allow their departure for the 2013 academic year.
In December, after the 2011 football regular season was completed announcements were made that Boise State University and San Diego State University, both of the Mountain West Conference, would join the Big East in football only; and that Conference USA members University of Central Florida, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Houston would join in all sports for the 2013 academic year.
On January 24, 2012, the Navy Midshipmen accepted an invitation to join the Big East for football only starting in 2015.On February 9, 2012, the Big East invited the University of Memphis to join as a full member in all sports to begin play in 2013.On March 7, 2012, it was announced that Temple University would return to the conference for football in the 2012 season, filling the void left by West Virginia. Temple would join for all sports in 2013. Temple basketball would move over from the Atlantic 10 Conference, where they have been a perennial powerhouse.On August 29, 2012, Loyola and the Patriot League announced that all Loyola athletic teams, including the school’s Big East team in women’s lacrosse, would join that conference on July 1, 2013.On September 12, 2012, Notre Dame announced it would follow Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC, joining that league in all sports except football. Notre Dame and the Big East reached agreement on March 13, 2013; the exit took place July 1, 2013.
On November 20, 2012, Rutgers announced it would be leaving the Big East to join the Big Ten Conference as a full member, effective with the start of the 2014–15 academic year.Rutgers’ announcement came one day after the University of Maryland departed the ACC to join the Big Ten.One week later, on November 27, Tulane University accepted the Big East’s invitation to join as an all-sports member. East Carolina University’s football program also joined the Big East in 2014; both schools were previously with Conference USA.The following day the ACC voted to invite Louisville to join in 2014, making them the seventh school since 2004 to leave the Big East in favor of the ACC.On March 27, 2013, East Carolina’s future membership in the renamed conference was officially upgraded to all-sports membership.
New Big East
Main articles: Big East Conference and American Athletic Conference
Less than two weeks after Louisville announced its departure for the ACC, multiple media reports indicated that the Big East’s seven remaining non-FBS schools, all Catholic institutions, were considering a mass exit from the conference.By December 13, it was likely that the non-FBS schools would indeed leave to form a new conference,and on December 15, the seven schools (soon to be called the Catholic 7 by the media) made their departure official, effective with the 2015–16 school year.Many details remained to be worked out, with one major issue being whether the “Big East” name would stay with the FBS schools.
On December 31, Boise State announced they had decided to stay in the Mountain West conference, leaving the Big East, much like TCU, without ever playing a game in it. With Boise State staying in the Mountain West, it was noted that San Diego State would indeed try to rejoin the Mountain West as well.On January 16, 2013, reports surfaced that SDSU would indeed stay in the Mountain West. Rumors of the MWC looking at potentially adding Houston and SMU as its 13th and 14th football members, both of which had stated they would join the Big East in 2013, continued to circulate as well.
In February 2013, multiple media reports indicated that the Catholic 7 would depart in July 2013, two years earlier than originally planned. On March 5, the Associated Press reported tentative details of a financial agreement: In exchange for selling both the Big East name and a contract with Madison Square Garden (MSG) to host the men’s basketball tournament to the Catholic 7, as well as $10 million, the football schools would receive $100 million of a $110 million pool that had accumulated from entry fees, exit fees, and proceeds earned from appearances in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.On April 3, the football-playing schools, which retained the old Big East’s structure and its automatic BCS bid, announced they would operate as the American Athletic Conference starting on July 1.