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Big East Conference

conf_bigeast.jpgThe Big East was founded in 1979 when Providence, St. John's, Georgetown, and Syracuse invited Seton Hall, Rutgers, Connecticut, Holy Cross, and Boston College to form a conference primarily focused on basketball, with Rutgers and Holy Cross declining to join. Villanova joined a year later in 1980 and Pittsburgh joined in 1982. In 1985, Penn State applied for membership, but was rejected, with only five schools in favor (Penn State needed six out of eight). It was long rumored that Syracuse cast the deciding vote against Penn State, but Mike Tranghese confirmed that this was not the case and that Syracuse had, in fact, voted for Penn State's inclusion.

About a decade after the conference's inception, Big East members decided to become a major football conference and thus added five schools including four-time champion Miami, Temple, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Rutgers. Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference. The inaugural Big East football season launched in 1991. West Virginia and Rutgers were football-only members until 1995, Virginia Tech was a football-only member until 2001, with Temple remaining a football-only member until 2004, after failing to attract enough consistent fan support. The Big East offered Notre Dame a non-football membership effective 1995. This led to an unusual conference structure with some schools competing in Division I basketball only.

This had long led to rumors of instability, and in 2003, ongoing press reports of tensions between the football schools and the basketball 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 teams moved to the Big East from Conference USA — Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Marquette, and DePaul. For more details on this topic, see 2005 NCAA football realignment.

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. In addition two traditional basketball teams, DePaul and Marquette, were added to gain the Chicago and Milwaukee television markets and help the already solid basketball status of the conference.[citation needed]

Currently, the Big East represents the majority of the large, athletically competitive private Catholic schools, while public schools UConn, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida, West Virginia and Cincinnati are located in areas with large Catholic communities.[citation needed] Five of the founding seven schools are Catholic schools — Providence, St. John's, Georgetown, Seton Hall, and Boston College.

In January 2006, Loyola University Maryland (then Loyola College in Maryland) joined as an associate member in the sport of women's lacrosse.

Big East schools compete in Division I in basketball and Olympic sports. Football members of the conference participate in Division I FBS. Notre Dame remains an FBS independent, while Georgetown and Villanova have Division I FCS (formerly I-AA) football programs. Georgetown football competes in the Patriot League. Villanova competed in the Atlantic 10 through the 2006 season, but along with all other members of the A-10 football conference joined the new football conference launched by the Colonial Athletic Association in 2007. In September 2010, in the wake of a Division I realignment that affected a number of conferences around the country, the Big East extended an invitation to Villanova to become a football member. The school is currently considering the offer, which would require the school to substantially expand its entire athletic program, as well as expand its stadium to meet FBS requirements or find another suitable venue in the Philadelphia area.

The eight schools that play football in the conference are all state-supported (or in the case of Pittsburgh, state-related) with the exception of Syracuse (a private but secular institution), whereas the eight schools that do not play football in the conference are all affiliated with the Catholic Church.

Beginning in 2010, the Big East sponsored a men's lacrosse league with Georgetown, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, St. John’s, Syracuse and Villanova participating.

Texas Christian University will join the conference as an all-sports member beginning in the 2012–2013 academic year.

Big East Members

Big East Tournament

After being held in Providence, Hartford, and Syracuse in its first three years, the conference tournament moved to its seemingly permanent home, Madison Square Garden in New York, in 1983. The tournament has been held there ever since, and will be held there at least through 2011.

Big East Tournament tickets are sold on a per-session basis; you do not need to buy a booklet for the entire tournament. Prices escalate as the tournament progresses; first round tickets are cheap, championship game tickets are not. 2006 marked the first time the entire tournament was sold out to the member schools without a public sale.

If you can't procure your tickets in advance, you'll be buying on the street. Most Big East schools are within driving distance of New York, and teams like Connecticut, Syracuse, St. John's, and Notre Dame have huge fan bases in New York City. Therefore, tickets to the semifinals and championship can be hard to find, depending on who is playing. As with any basketball tournament, if you're buying on the street we recommend buying tickets early, as soon as you find a price you're willing to pay.

Keep in mind that some schools do not qualify for the conference tournament; many fans from these schools will not be using their tickets.

Big East Tournament Dates

big_east_teams.jpg The Big East Tournament is always held in early March, and runs from Wednesday afternoon through Saturday night's championship. The tournament is always contested at Madison Square Garden in New York.

2008 - March 13-16

2009 - March 12-15

2010 - March 11-14

2011 - March 10-13

2012 - March 8-11

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