New Big East-Big Ten basketball series could reopen door for Maryland-Georgetown


Big Ten Commisioner Jim Delany, left, might help Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson get the men’s basketball game with Georgetown Anderson has long sought. (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

On Monday, the Big East and Big Ten announced the creation of the Dave Gavitt Tipoff Games, an early-season tribute to the Big East founder. The event, an eight-year deal beginning in 2015-16, will annually take place over four days and feature eight games between the two leagues during the first week of the college basketball season, according to a news release sent Monday morning. Each Big Ten team will participate at least four times.

Though matchups, announced each spring, will be decided based on relative competitive strength and not geographical location, the partnership nonetheless opens the door for Maryland to play Georgetown, a local rivalry that has not occurred since 2008 because of spats between the two athletic departments. After the Hoyas rebuffed Maryland’s efforts to reestablish a home-and-home men’s basketball series two years ago, Terrapins Athletic Director Kevin Anderson decided against scheduling Georgetown in any other sport until the situation was resolved.

“We think that across the board, if we’re going to play people — particularly somebody in our own region — they should be able and willing to play us in everything,” Anderson told colleague Liz Clarke in 2012. “If we could sit down and talk about it, and have a good dialogue, we’re more than happy to pursue other avenues. But we want to play Georgetown in all sports.

“Both teams have a great basketball history. We’re both right there. Everybody benefits in this. I can’t see any kind of losing scenario.”

The two sides had been in talks, with Anderson calling it a “serious conversation,” until Georgetown Athletic Director Lee Reed later commented, “It’s inappropriate to prematurely blow this out of proportion.”

Even without Georgetown-Maryland, the Big East-Big Ten series could still tap into location-based rivalries such as Wisconsin-Marquette, Nebraska-Creighton, Ohio State-Xavier, Indiana-Butler or even Rutgers-Seton Hall/St. Johns.

“Many schools choose to kind of ease into the season with their choice of opponents,” Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman told SI.com. “This one will really force our schools and coaches to get ready really quickly because there will be some tough matchups.”

Coinciding with the July 1 arrival of the Scarlet Knights and Terps, the Big Ten has been expanding its outreach to the East Coast. Currently headquartered outside Chicago, the league will soon open a second office in midtown Manhattan and recently signed a deal with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, held annually at Yankee Stadium.

“We are excited to honor Dave Gavitt and his contributions to the sport of basketball through the establishment of the Gavitt Tipoff Games,” Big Ten commissioner James Delany said in the news release. “Dave was a friend and a mentor to me and often mentioned that college basketball should do a better job of tipping off the season, similar to opening day in baseball. I think he would approve of our effort to start a new tipoff tradition, grow the game and serve the best interests of the student-athletes and coaches in these two great conferences.”

But the real tug here for Terps fans will be the prospect of reigniting the series with Georgetown. The two sides last played at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. in 2008, a 75-48 Hoyas rout, and they haven’t played at either team’s home gym — or even locally — since 1993. From 1947 to 1980 Maryland and Georgetown played at least once annually, excluding 1975 and 1966.

The Terps went 1-0 against the Big East last season, beating Providence in the Paradise Jam tournament final. They also will face top-10 Villanova at Madison Square Garden in December, in the Coaches v. Cancer Classic.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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