Michael Tranghese was named to succeed his former boss, Dave Gavitt, as commissioner of the Big East Conference yesterday and offered fighting words to any other conferences trying to steal its schools away.

"We are absolutely committed to protecting our structure," said Tranghese at a morning news conference in Providence, R.I. "We are not going to let someone step forward and control our destiny. If you come at us from the outside, you've got a fight on your hands."

Big East members Boston College, Pittsburgh and Syracuse reportedly are listening to offers from other conferences that have football competition, or Eastern football independents that want to form an all-sports conference. Pitt, Syracuse and Boston College compete as independents in football since the Big East does not offer football competition.

"They don't want to leave," Tranghese said later in a telephone interview. "And I'm committed to convincing them to remain in the league. I'm anxious to get to work trying to find a solution and to put all this talk to rest."

Tranghese, who has been with the league since its inception in 1979, serving as associate commissioner since 1982, has the unenviable job of following in the footsteps of the highly successful Gavitt, the only commissioner the league has had. Gavitt resigned last month to become the director of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics.

Tranghese was the mastermind behind the Big East's pioneering television and radio packages. The league was the first to sign an exclusive contract with a major network (CBS) and a major cable network (ESPN). Tranghese also served as executive producer of all league telecasts for several years.

He recently negotiated a four-year contract extension with CBS and faces similar negotiations with ESPN and the Madison Square Garden Network.

Frank Rienzo, Georgetown's director of athletics and chairman of the Big East executive committee, said Tranghese was a unanimous pick. But a source said that the committee's first choice was Tom Jernstedt, an assistant executive director of the NCAA who runs the NCAA Division I basketball tournament and is involved in television negotiations.

The source said that Jernstedt turned down the offer even before Gavitt announced his resignation, and that the league asked him to reconsider.

Jernstedt declined to comment and Rienzo was unavailable to comment. But Larry Keating, athletic director at Seton Hall, told the Associated Press that no one else had been interviewed and that Tranghese "didn't get the job by default."