TIP OFF: Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco, left, will oversee the conference’s transition to the American Athletic Conference. Providence College, a founding member of the Big East, will not be a part of the new conference.
COURTESY BIG EAST CONFERENCE
By Patrick Anderson PBN Staff Writer
Mike Aresco, commissioner of the athletic conference known for 34 years as the Big East, speaks fondly of Providence, but he can’t promise how long the league he’s reinventing will remain in its historic home.
On July 1, the Big East will officially change its name to the American Athletic Conference and welcome a new group of schools centered to the south and west of its Northeastern roots and Rhode Island headquarters.
Aresco, who took over the Big East while the league was in crisis last year, is rebranding and reorganizing the league, a process that could lead anywhere.
“We have no immediate plans to move, but are investigating our options and will ultimately do what makes the most sense,” Aresco said. “Obviously we have less of a presence in the Northeast, but then again this is an age of electronic communication. We have a good staff and history here and Providence is a great city.”
The Big East was born in Providence because of Providence College and its then-athletic director Dave Gavitt, a chief architect behind the league’s creation in 1979.
One of the seven original Big East schools, Providence College was also one of seven Catholic schools that broke away from the conference to form their own league last year.
With more original Big East members breaking away than those remaining, the new Catholic conference decided to purchase the Big East name, which it will assume July 1 when the American Athletic Conference is born.
All of these machinations should have at least some impact on Rhode Island’s capital city, which has benefited from hosting league headquarters and Providence College games against national-title-winning basketball teams for 34 years.
When Providence College returns to the court next fall, its schedule will still feature well-known, high-caliber teams, many of them old rivals from the former Big East, including Georgetown, St. Johns and Villanova.
But the biggest draws to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center for Providence College games in recent years – the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University – won’t be on the schedule.
In the last two years, Providence College sold tickets to home games against UConn and Syracuse in packages in order to boost attendance for other games.
UConn will be the only founding member of the Big East to stay in the re-formed American Athletic Conference, but no plans have been made yet to renew the rivalry with Providence College.