The Big East was born in 1979. It was born as a basketball conference of just 7 teams; Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Providence, Syracuse, Boston College, and Connecticut. Villanova joined the following year. Pittsburgh entered in 1982.
They remained 9 strong and established an incredible reputation until 1991. That was when they decided to ramp it up and become a football conference. Miami joined as a full member, and Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Rutgers, and Temple joined for football only. Notre Dame was added for all sports except football in 1995.
You could argue that is when things changed. Obviously the Big East recognized the money to be made in football and entered into the picture. They didn’t become all-powerful, but clearly were a factor. Believe it or not, it only lasted 10 years.
If things changed in 1995, the beginning of the end was 2004. Football powers Miami and Virginia Tech left for the ACC. Original member Boston College followed suit the next year. 2005 was also the same season the Big East raided Conference USA bringing in Cincinnati, Louisville, USF, DePaul, and Marquette.
Things held steady briefly, but as you know the ACC and Big 12 chopped the legs out from under the Big East again. And perhaps even more painfully snatching Syracuse.
Losing Boston College hurt, but at the time losing the Orange appeared possible so when it was the Eagles instead, the conference felt more like it dodged a bullet. Losing one of the basketball powers though, that stung hard. Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame announcing their departures this year was the final straw.
So 4 original members, Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Providence have decided to pack up and go with basketball-only members Marquette, DePaul, and near-original member Villanova. I am sure it pains them to leave behind UConn.
I am okay with their decision to leave, and even argue that joining the A-10 would be picking better basketball than what will become of the Big East.
The Big East would consist of UConn, Temple (who is leaving the A-10 ironically to join the Big East), Cincinnati, Memphis, USF, UCF, Houston, ECU, SMU, and Tulane.
The A-10 will have Xavier, Butler, VCU, UMass, Richmond, St. Joe’s, St. Bonaventure, Fordham, St. Louis, LaSalle, Dayton, and George Washington.
Tail of the Tape
In the last 10 years, 7 of the new Big East members made the NCAA tournament.
In the last 10 years, 10 of the A-10 members made the NCAA tournament.
Each of the last 5 years, the A-10 had the same number or more teams in the dance:
And while UConn is the only school to win a National Title, Butler and VCU combined for 3 Final Fours. The A-10 members also produced more Sweet 16 teams.
And finally, another knock on what is left of the new Big East, the success of Connecticut and Memphis could be directly tied to coaches Jim Calhoun and John Calipari, neither of whom are at those schools any more.
I don’t believe the 7 Catholic schools will join the A-10, but it would be a better option, with more regionalized, more successful, and more basketball-first schools. I applaud them for doing what is best for them, and protecting what little there is left that resembles the orginal Big East.