"Joining the BIG EAST Conference is tremendous recognition of the University of Louisville's outstanding athletic program and our accomplished student-athletes" said Dr. James Ramsey, President of U of L. "It is with great enthusiasm that we make this next strategic move on behalf of our athletics program. Its significance, however, will extend even beyond the playing fields.
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"First and foremost, I'm pleased for this community," said Tom Jurich, Vice President and Director of Athletics at U of L. "This association will provide us the national stage that we all desire. This athletic department has worked long and hard over the last six years to put ourselves in the position to be attractive to a conference as prestigious as the BIG EAST. On behalf of our entire department, we are excited and proud to join the BIG EAST and are anxious to begin competition."
U of L joins four fellow schools currently Conference USA members as new additions to the BIG EAST, including the University of Cincinnati, the University of South Florida, DePaul University and Marquette University. The invitations were extended and accepted at Tuesday's annual meeting of BIG EAST presidents in New York.
The new 16-team BIG EAST Conference will include eight members for all sports, including Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse and West Virginia. The additional eight schools will compete in all sports except football, including DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova. Three current schools in the BIG EAST -- Boston College, Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech -- are departing for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The BIG EAST Conference, which has its headquarters located in Providence, R.I., is celebrating its 25th anniversary season in 2003-04. The conference, which has won 22 national championships in six different sports, sponsors championships in 23 sports.
Two U of L coaches have close ties to the BIG EAST. U of L men's basketball coach Rick Pitino guided Providence for two seasons (1985-87), reaching the NCAA Final Four there in 1987. U of L women's soccer coach Karen Ferguson is a 1993 UCONN graduate, where she was a three-time All-America selection and served as an assistant coach for three seasons prior to joining the Cardinals.
The Cardinals were charter members of Conference USA in 1995 after 20 years in the now-dissolved Metro Conference (1975-95). U of L also had previous league associations with the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (1925-48), Ohio Valley Conference (1948-49) and Missouri Valley Conference (1964-75).