New Big East adds Butler, 2 others

NEW YORK -- It's official. The Big East has been reborn.

The seven Catholic schools that are leaving the old conference have added Butler, Xavier and Creighton to their ranks. The new league, under the old name, officially commences operations July 1.

The Big East men's basketball tournament will continue to be played at Madison Square Garden in New York. And the conference has agreed to a 12-year television contract with Fox Sports.

"Today we relaunch the Big East," said the Rev. Brian Shanley, president of Providence College, at a news conference in midtown Manhattan. "We go back to being a basketball-centric ... league going forward. And I think Dave [Gavitt] is smiling down right now on what it is that we're doing."

Gavitt, the former coach and athletic director at Providence who died in 2011, founded the original Big East in 1979. Four original members -- Georgetown, Providence, St. John's and Seton Hall -- will move to the new conference, along with Villanova, Marquette and DePaul.

Butler and Xavier move from the Atlantic 10, and Creighton joins from the Missouri Valley Conference.

"We looked for schools that had academic profiles like us," Shanley said. "We wanted schools with strong sustainable and sustained athletic programs. And we wanted schools that could play really good basketball, because that's really the bread and butter of the Big East. And when we examined all the schools that we thought about, we came to the conclusion that the three schools seated here among us today were the best schools that we could possibly ask to join the Big East."

The presidents of the joining schools also discussed their reasons for becoming members of the new Big East.

"Joining the Big East is an unprecedented opportunity for Butler and represents an ideal fit for us -- academically, athletically and geographically," said Butler president James Danko.

"It's an endorsement of who we are and how we've gotten here, as well as where we can go next," said the Rev. Michael Graham, president of Xavier.

"We have enjoyed our affiliation with the Missouri Valley Conference over the years, but when an exceptional opportunity presented itself, we paused and carefully considered our options," said Creighton president Timothy Lannon. "We see this new partnership enhancing the visibility of the university through increased national media exposure."

The conference could expand to 12 teams in the future, and Saint Louis and Dayton have been rumored as potential additions.

"We're 10 for next year. We know that for sure," Shanley said. "Whether and how we get to 12 is a negotiable between us and our partners, and we've discussed actively a number of schools that are really strong potential partners for us.

"We also believe that the landscape of college sports has not stopped morphing and that there may be some more movement out there. So for now we're very happy at 10, and we'll see what happens going forward."

The schools have hired executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates to assist in their search for a commissioner. They've also brought in Dan Beebe, the former commissioner of the Ohio Valley and Big 12 conferences, as a consultant.

"We're committed to finding a commissioner of vision, someone who'll help us to look to the future while also preserving our tradition," said Georgetown president John DeGioia.