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Big East Sadness: Dave Gavitt Dies As Syracuse & Pitt Look To ACC

Saturday, September 17, 2011

 

It’s only a matter of time.

If you’re a fan of the Providence College men’s basketball program, you have likely often wondered when the Big East might blow up. That time may come sooner rather than later.

With football being the driving force, major college sports conferences have undergone major changes in recent years. All the while, basketball-only schools like Providence College were just sitting on the sidelines watching things unfold. Now PC may be forced to take action as fellow Big East schools Pittsburgh and Syracuse have petitioned the ACC for future membership.

To the credit of former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese, he saw these changes coming years ago and tried his very best to be proactive to protect his conference. Whether it was adding football powers like Miami and Virginia Tech or expanding the conference following their departure, Tranghese always tried to keep the Big East on top of the college basketball world while putting together a viable football conference.

Now, with Pitt and Syracuse ready to bolt, what will come of the Big East?

Will the other football schools scramble to align themselves with other conferences? If I were them, I would. West Virginia will probably look toward the ACC or the SEC. Louisville would seem to make sense for the SEC or possibly the Big 10. UConn would probably prefer the ACC if they had their choice.  The fact is, it's CYA time in big-time college sports.  That stands for "cover your own ___."  A published report quotes an ACC official who claims that upwards of 10 teams have recently inquired about admission to the ACC.

The problem is that many of these so-called “super conferences” are running out of room.

Then there’s Notre Dame. While the Fighting Irish love their football independence, the time may be now for them to look toward the Big Ten which has wanted them for years. Geographically it makes a ton of sense for Notre Dame. The problem is, this would affect their exclusive deal for football with NBC which is a cash cow for the school.

Locally, the big question is: what becomes of the basketball-only schools like PC? GoLocalProv.com talked with officials from Providence College and the Big East and neither chose to comment at this time.

However, it would seem that the Friar could be a part of a pretty good men’s basketball conference themselves. For example, a conference made up of Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul and Villanova would be very solid. They would obviously have to add a few schools. Temple would be an attractive addition but they do play FBS football. However, it is highly unlikely that the Owls would be asked to join any of the major “power conferences” meaning their addition should be considered a safe one.

What could some other possibilities be? How about Dayton or Xavier? Maybe UMass or St. Joe's. Rhody fans would love to see URI added to the mix and they should be considered as well.

While this new basketball-only conference would not be the cash cow that today’s Big East is, it would still be a very viable conference which should be able to strike a solid national television deal to make it profitable for its members.

The good news in creating such a conference would be that it would end speculation about what these basketball-only playing schools would need to do if their football brethren were to leave them.

On an even sadder note, Dave Gavitt -the man who created the Big East Conference back in 1979 – died today at the age of 73.

It’s a strange twist of irony so-to-speak. While Gavitt had been struggling with health problems in recent years, this changing college landscape and the implications it has for the conference he founded had to break his heart.

The Rumford, RI native led the PC Friars to the Final Four in 1973 and racked up 209 wins as the head coach at Providence from 1969-1979.

Ironically, Gavitt was a big proponent of allowing then independent Penn State into the Big East Conference back in the 1980’s. Gavitt saw the value of Penn State football to the conference but many of the basketball schools in the Big East were cold to the idea of letting them in because of how poor their basketball program was at the time.

A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, here is Gavitt’s bio at the Hall:
Dave Gavitt is one of the architects of the modern game of college basketball.
From coach of Providence College to founder of the Big East Conference to chairperson of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee to president of USA Basketball, Gavitt has left a formidable imprint on the game he loves.
As coach of the Friars from 1969 to 1979, Gavitt led Providence College to 209 wins, including eight consecutive 20-win seasons, five NCAA tournament appearances, the 1973 Final Four, and three NIT appearances. Gavitt galvanized efforts to create the Big East Conference in 1979 and served as the powerhouse conference's first commissioner until 1990. His work with the Division I Men's Basketball Committee resulted in the expansion of the NCAA tournament to 64 teams and the use of domed stadiums for the Final Four. His lengthy résumé and contributions to New England basketball includes serving as Senior Executive Vice-President of the Boston Celtics from 1990 to 1994 and Chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame from 1995 to 2003.

 

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