One day in December 1979, while contemplating the basketball-first athletic conference he'd helped originate earlier that summer, Dave Gavitt, the Big East's first commissioner, confessed a simple hope. "One of our goals," said Gavitt, who was also the athletic director at Providence, "is that at the end of our first year, no one asks, 'What's the Big East?' and 'Who's in the Big East?'"
Gavitt passed away in September, before he could watch his original—and wildly successful—vision mutate into the confusing, wholly football-centered constellation that the Big East will resemble come 2013. Amid a barrage of questions, consider three of the biggest distortions to the national college basketball landscape.
"Boise State, Houston, San Diego State, SMU and UCF are all fine schools that will enhance every aspect of the Big East."
—JUDY GENSHAFT, University of South Florida President and Chair of the Conference Board of Directors
[The following text appears within a map. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual map.]
Non-football-playing members: DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova
Longest trip in 2013: 2,517 mi
Honorable Mention: TCU joined and left the Big East without playing a game (2011)
Highest-ranked Team in 2011: No. 23 West Virginia
Highest-ranked Team in 1991: No. 1 Miami
Longest trip in 1991: 1,256 mi
ORIGINAL BIG EAST SCHOOLS IN 1991
BOSTON COLLEGE ACC in '05
MIAMI ACC in 2004
PITT ACC in '12 or '13
*only original member left
SYRACUSE ACC in '12 or '13
TEMPLE Independent in '05
WEST VIRGINIA Big 12 in '12 or '13
VIRGINIA TECH ACC in '04
FUTURE BIG EAST
SAN DIEGO STATE
SOUTH FLORIDA(since '05)
THE HARDEST CONFERENCE GOES SOFT
To lose Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia (20 combined Sweet 16 appearances since 1988) and add Southern Methodist, Houston and Central Florida (zero combined NCAA tournament wins over that same span) is to cut out the heart of the Big East. "The teams you lost in football aren't as good as the teams you're bringing in," Louisville coach Rick Pitino (right) said this month. "Basketball's another matter."
NONFOOTBALL SCHOOLS PAY THE PRICE
Left in the lurch are San Diego State's and Boise State's basketball teams, which won't follow football to the Big East and must flee from the Mountain West (fourth-highest conference RPI) to somewhere like the Big West (26th). Neither the Aztecs nor the Broncos deserved to be uprooted—particularly San Diego State, with its 12,400-seat arena—and getting four games against Big East opponents will do little to help SDSU's Steve Fisher (right) on the recruiting trail.
WHO ELSE GOES "EAST"?
Both Pitino and UConn coach Jim Calhoun (right) want to add two more basketball powers: Temple—much to the chagrin of Big East member Villanova—and Memphis. And the lasting allegiance of the Huskies is critical. "UConn is not in discussion with any other athletic conference officials at this time," UConn president Susan Herbst said last week. That may be so, but "at this time" is a time frame that's over as soon as the phrase has been spoken.