After months of fielding questions about the dissolution of the Big East, Georgetown Coach John Thompson III could finally talk with a degree of certainty Wednesday about what lies ahead for Hoyas basketball.
And he was bullish on the heels of Wednesday’s news conference at Fox Sports’ New York headquarters unveiling the reconstituted Big East that will launch July 1, its 12-year broadcast deal with Fox and a contract to stage its conference tournament at Madison Square Garden through 2026.
The 10-team league — with new members Butler, Creighton and Xavier joining traditional Big East members DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova — will start competing in the 2013-14 season.
“I think that at the end of the day, as I felt all along, we’re hitting the ground as one of the best basketball conferences in the country, and we’re excited about that,” Thompson said after his second-seeded Hoyas held their final practice at McDonough Arena before departing for Philadelphia, where they’ll open play in the NCAA tournament against South Region No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast.
“Just like there are members that are breaking off, and members have left, new rivalries, new traditions, new animosities will be built over time.”
The scheduling of next season’s conference games will be worked out under the supervision of former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, who has been retained as a consultant while a search for a permanent commissioner is under way. But Thompson said that a home-and-home series among all 10 members is likely next year, as the logical format for a 10-team league.
“That helps to define and establish a lot of those traditional rivalries because you get [opponents] there, and they come here,” Thompson said. “Some of that is lost when you’re not playing everyone twice.”
For the Hoyas, that means games next season in Indianapolis, where Butler is based; Omaha, Neb., where Creighton is located; and a return trip to Cincinnati, home of Xavier (and, of course, University of Cincinnati, among the current Big East schools Georgetown and its basketball-focused brethren are leaving behind).
The chance to play at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, the on-campus arena built in 1928 that was featured in the movie “Hoosiers,” was among the things Georgetown forward Nate Lubick looks forward to most.
“Everybody is always talking about the league being dismantled, but I think it’s pretty exciting what we’ve got coming next year,” Lubick said, alluding to the addition of Butler, Creighton and Xavier. “Those are three great teams with great coaches and great tradition. Right off the top of my head, the opportunity to play at Hinkle Fieldhouse will be obviously amazing.”
In creating the new, basketball-driven league, Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s and Seton Hall are abandoning a conference they helped found in 1979.
During Wednesday’s news conference, both the Rev. Brian Shanley, president of Providence College, and Georgetown President John J. DeGioia touched on the instability that led to the decision to break away from the current Big East, as members that played big-time football kept bolting for conferences promising more revenue and national exposure.
“We didn’t want to leave the Big East but found ourselves in a position where the instability was so acute [that] in the end, we were left with one founding [football-playing] member,” DeGioia said. “That wasn’t the conference that we connected to any longer. That was really why we made that move.”