“We’re excited the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament will be played at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.,” Maryland Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson said. “The Big Ten has shared its commitment to having a strong presence on the East Coast. It’s a great opportunity for our fans to attend the tournament in our backyard, and it should be a tremendous atmosphere.”
An official announcement from Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday at Verizon Center.
Earlier Monday, the Big Ten joined the Big East in unveiling the Dave Gavitt Tipoff Games. The event, an eight-year deal beginning in 2015-16, will feature eight games and take place over four days 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.
The basketball announcements reflect the league’s emphasis on establishing a presence along the Eastern seaboard, from New York to Washington.
The league’s bold, blue logo has begun popping up on campus at Maryland and Rutgers, along with talkback studios for interviews with the Big Ten Network. An administrative office space in Midtown Manhattan is planned to open June 1; satellite offices in the District are not far behind.
Last June, the Big Ten welcomed Johns Hopkins into the league in men’s lacrosse as an associate member and inked a deal to participate in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, held annually at Yankee Stadium.
“We’re trying to live in two areas, not just visit two areas, and we thought that by getting out at the first opportunity it reinforces that situation,” Delany said in a telephone interview. “It won’t be the last time, because we expect to have events in both regions, and our goal is to bind the two regions together into one conference. Probably the best way to do that and signal that is the use of big events.”
But never before has the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament, which has attracted more than 1.6 million fans since its inception in 1998, been held anywhere but in the Midwest.
In 2015, Chicago’s United Center will host the event for the ninth time, and Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis hosts for a 10th time the following season.
“We’ve been looking at our tournaments, and whether it’s football or basketball and what we want to do is get out East ASAP,” Delany said.
Plans formed shortly after Maryland announced its move from the Atlantic Coast Conference in November 2012, shedding almost 60 years as a founding member for a more lucrative situation. Deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia spearheaded the Verizon Center initiative, Delany said, which falls under the conference’s wide goals of nudging its influence into two of the nation’s biggest markets.
“I think in a relatively short period of time, whether it’s the Yankees situation, the Johns Hopkins situation or the offices or the tournaments or other things we’re working on, it’ll become very clear that we’re active and progressive about not only playing games here but making this part of our own geographic and psychological identity,” Delany said.
Contracts have not been signed beyond 2017, but Delany promised that year would not be the last.
“I don’t know how regular, but we’re going to be here on a regular basis,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s every three years or four years or five years or six years, but we’re going to get out and we’re going to have a presence. We’re going to live in two areas.”
With the ACC filling the same space in the previous season, the Big Ten might find itself jockeying for the spotlight. The ACC tournament in 2016 will be its second, after 2005, at Verizon Center.
But the league no longer has a direct area presence after losing Maryland and adding Louisville.
“I think in some ways there’s competition,” Delany said. “I think it’s healthy. But I do think there’s competition. I think to say there’s not competition belies the facts on the ground. But I think it’s a rich region, not only professional sports but college sports. I think that we have played here. We’ll be playing here more.”
Matchups for the Gavitt Tipoff Games will be announced each spring and are to be based on relative competitive strength and not geographical location, the leagues said. Nonetheless, the partnership opens the door for Maryland to play Georgetown for the first time in a scheduled regular season game since 1993 and for the first time in any circumstances since meeting in a preseason tournament in 2008.
After the Hoyas rebuffed Maryland’s efforts to reestablish a home-and-home men’s basketball series two years ago, Anderson decided against scheduling Georgetown in any other sport until the situation was resolved.
Even without Georgetown-Maryland, the Big East-Big Ten series still could tap into location-based rivalries such as Wisconsin-Marquette, Nebraska-Creighton, Ohio State-Xavier, Indiana-Butler or even Rutgers-Seton Hall/St. Johns.