When the Big East was reorganized in 2012 following a toxic tug of war between the football and basketball schools, the northeast collegiate rivalries that defined the conference were no more.
In December 2012 “The Catholic Seven” consisting of DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, and Villanova broke away from the football schools. For a short time thereafter, there technically wasn’t a Big East conference.
After much negotiating, “The Catholic Seven” were awarded the rights to the Big East name and logo. And they were allowed to continue the tradition of the basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden.
In the aftermath, two more Catholic schools, Creighton and Xavier, and the lone non-Catholic school, Butler, joined to fill out the field. The conference had been salvaged, but with changes.
Fast forward four years and the new season marks a milestone for the new conference: for the first time in its history, all undergraduate students have come in with the new conference model.
Gone and graduated are the last students who experienced the Big East of Cincinnati, Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, Connecticut, and West Virginia.
Those days will never be forgotten, nor should they be, but it bears mentioning that current seniors have no memory of seeing any of those teams play in a yearly, conference setting.
Instead they have cheered on The Hall as they faced familiar faces in “The Catholic Seven”, but some very unfamiliar faces in Butler, Creighton, and Xavier. Although strange at first, this new incarnation of the Big East now is the new normal.
Rivalries are forming between the schools, new and old, and the new schools are adding their own flavor.
Butler, from Indianapolis, Ind. comes into the conference with a long sports history and an emphasis on basketball, a match made in heaven for the new Big East. The Bulldogs have found mixed success in the Big East through three years, but may soon be a stronge contender in the Big East on the court.
Creighton, coming all the way from Omaha, Neb. has found success in baseball and men’s soccer where they have regular season titles, to women’s volleyball where they boast repeat seasons of regular season and tournament titles.
Although basketball has not been as successful for Creighton as they would like, they have proven their potential to be a danger on the court.
Finally Xavier, from Cincinnati, Ohio is another well-rounded program with an excellent basketball program. Their men’s basketball team qualified for the tournament each of the last three seasons, but beyond that, the Musketeers have claimed two tournament titles in baseball, with a runner’s up title in men’s soccer.
It may not be the conference it was, but the Big East is beginning to thrive with its new members. The new identity of the conference is still forming, but the athletes and students who now walk Seton Hall’s campus have more memories of match days against Creighton, than Rutgers. That is the new reality.
James Justice can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MLSTakeover.