To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the conference’s founding, the Big East unveiled a new commemorative logo on Wednesday morning.
The Big East was founded on May 29, 1979, when then-Providence head coach Dave Gavitt spearheaded an effort to create a basketball-centric conference.
A release from then-assistant commissioner for public relations and marketing Mike Tranghese stated the new league would bring together “seven nationally prominent teams that (were) committed to producing the best basketball league in the east.” That includes founding members Boston College, Connecticut, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Syracuse, while Pittsburgh and Villanova were added over the next few years.
The Big East sent eight teams to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four in its first decade of existence, including three in 1985: Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova. The Wildcats shocked the defending national champion Hoyas in the title game that season.
The conference remained largely unchanged until 1991, when it began to sponsor football and added Miami as a full member. Rutgers, Temple, Virginia Tech and West Virginia also joined the conference as football-only members, with Notre Dame following suit in 1995.
The unusual structure of the conference — with football and non-football members — brought about several defections early this century and ultimately led to the split of the conference in 2013.
A “new” Big East was formed when the seven Catholic, non-football members — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova — announced their plans to leave the conference in pursuit of a basketball-only setup. The league, which was formally announced in March, then poached Butler and Xavier from the Atlantic 10 Conference and Creighton from the Missouri Valley Conference to bring the conference to 10 members.
The football-playing schools also announced in April they would operate as the American Athletic Conference, retaining the old Big East’s structure and its automatic BCS bid. The AAC lost its automatic qualifying status with the birth of the College Football Playoff one year later, however. That one spot is now reserved for the highest ranked team from the “Group of Five” conferences, which includes the AAC, Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Sun Belt Conference and the Mountain West Conference.
Following in Gavitt’s original vision and under the direction of commissioner Val Ackerman, the current Big East has flourished on the hardwood. The conference boasts two-time national champion Villanova and is in the midst of a 12-year, $500 million television contract with FOX Sports.