Butler, Creighton, Xavier join Big East

Butler, Creighton, Xavier join Big East
March 20, 2013, 2:00 pm
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- The reconfigured Big East officially got three new members on Tuesday - Butler, Creighton and Xavier - and will start play next season with its tournament at Madison Square Gardena and a lucrative broadcasting contract from Fox.

The reworked league, put together after a split with the old Big East was completed earlier this month, will feature the so-called Catholic 7 schools from the old conference plus the three new arrivals.

Together, the basketball-oriented schools have a 12-year deal with Fox worth about $600 million, according to a person with knowledge of the details. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the value was not made public.

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Providence's president, the Rev. Brian Shanley, was a student at the college when its athletic director, Dave Gavitt, spearheaded the creation of the Big East in 1979. The conference's name was proposed his father's marketing firm.

''This name is bold. This name is strong. This name is memorable,'' Shanley said. ''That's why it's been important for us to keep that name and keep that legacy going.''

Providence, Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall and DePaul broke away from the old conference in search of stability, which was badly lacking as the football members kept leaving for other leagues.

They feel they've found kindred spirits in Butler, Creighton and Xavier, all private schools with fewer than 8,000 students.

Creighton's president, the Rev. Timothy Lannon, voiced an appropriate sentiment for a conference with only Butler as a non-Catholic member.

''This is a match made in heaven,'' he said.

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Oh, and these new schools can play basketball a little, too.

Creighton is in its seventh NCAA tournament in 13 years. Xavier was one of only eight schools in the country to make at least seven straight NCAA appearances before missing out this season.

And Butler played in the national championship game in 2010 and '11.

Butler and Xavier are leaving the Atlantic 10, while Creighton departs the Missouri Valley Conference.

Butler coach Brad Stevens' name always comes up when high-profile jobs open. Now he'll be coaching in the Big East.

''The idea of being able to go to the very highest level of conference is attractive,'' said athletic director Barry Collier, who can speak from experience because he once left the Butler coaching job for a less-successful stint at Nebraska. ''In this case, we brought the attractive conference to Brad Stevens.''

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Xavier's president, the Rev. Michael Graham, can't wait for coach Chris Mack's new pitch to recruits: You can play every March at the Garden, and go on the road to places like Georgetown.

''I'm sure that we're going to have an opportunity to recruit a kid that's a step quicker, a little bit deadlier,'' he said, mimicking a shooting motion, ''than we had before. That's going to make, obviously, a difference in the program. We've done very well for the last several years by any metric, so this is going to allow us to take what we want to take - which is our next step forward.

''We haven't been to a Final Four yet.''

Creighton is the geographical outlier in Omaha. The Bluejays bring a strong overall athletic program, loyal fan base and attractive arena.

And Creighton may not remain by itself in the middle of the country - the Big East is open to potentially adding more members in the future.