To take liberty with the classic saying, behind every successful institution you can be sure to find quality leadership. Needless to say, college athletics is no different, in particular the Big East Conference. Michael Tranghese, the Big East's first full-time employee, and for 11 years the associate to Dave Gavitt, took over the role as Commissioner in 1990 after a unanimous appointment to the position. Tranghese, who helped not only open but build the doors to the Big East offices in 1979, will be in his 16th year as Commissioner in 2005-06.
Tranghese, who began his career in college athletics at American International College in his hometown, grew up in the Springfield, Mass., which is ironically the home of the Basketball Hall-of-Fame. He also served as the sports information director at Providence College during the 70s, the period which saw great athletic success by the Friar programs under Gavitt, the Big East's first Commissioner in 1979. Today, the Big East headquarters can be found in Providence, where the conference administers to more than 5,500 athletes in 23 sports.
The number of sports the Big East sponsors has steadily risen while under the helm of Tranghese. He aided the formation of Big East football, which began in 1991. Feeding off his original involvement in its creation, Tranghese helped the Big East take a step forward in recent years. For the past two football seasons, he was the lead administrator of the Bowl Championship Series. He has also served as chair of the Division I-A Commissioners and the Collegiate Commissioners Association.
In 2000-01, Tranghese concluded a five-year run as the chair of the NCAA Men's Basketball Committee. Showing off his love for sport and his knack for business, Tranghese served as chair of the NCAA Men's Basketball Subcommittee on Television where he helped college basketball and all college athletics take a huge step forward. Partnered with an NCAA's negotiating team, Tranghese helped put together a record $6 billion deal with CBS for broadcast rights to the men's basketball championship.
Today, Tranghese continues to showoff his abilities on the small screen, proving to be instrumental in technical production as well as negotiating business deals. The Big East has been a long-time partner with previously mentioned CBS Sports and ESPN, signing multi-year deals with both sport broadcasting powers for basketball and football. Tranghese negotiated a new television package for football with ABC (2001). Additionally, Tranghese was the force behind The Big East Television Network, which was a benchmark for regional network television.
Tranghese has managed to turn the Big East into a highly-marketable entity by utilizing the benefits of his schools' regional location. The Big East institutions reside in seven of the nation's 30 largest media markets, including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., Tampa, Pittsburgh and Hartford. This new Big East will have a stronghold on a market that comprises nearly one fourth of all television households in the U.S.
However, not every move the commissioner has made has come up smelling like roses. More than once during Tranghese‘s tenure he's been faced with significant membership issues. After establishing Big East football, Tranghese was forced to guide the newly formed league through a critical time in the development of the Conference. In March, 1994, the conference added football members Rutgers University and West Virginia University as its 11th and 12th full-time members, avoiding a potential structural breakup. Several months later Tranghese helped broker a deal that landed the University of Notre Dame, the national powerhouse who until that point had functioned as a solely independent proprietor. ND joined Rutgers and West Virginia in Big East competition during the 1995-96 academic years.
However, the conference list hasn't always been one continuing to grow. In 2003-04, after the unexpected and poorly timed withdrawal from the conference by three of its most prominent members (Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College), the Big East met a changing national landscape and coordinated the entrance of five institutions for 2005-06: DePaul University, University of Louisville, Marquette University and the University of South Florida and the University of Cincinnati, whom all kicked off their admittance to the Big East on July 1.