The league had announced that the five new institutions had accepted conference membership on Nov. 4, 2003. With 16 members formally in place, The BIG EAST has become the nation's largest Division I-A conference.
"This is a landmark day for the BIG EAST Conference," said Commissioner Michael Tranghese. "We have been working closely with our new members since they accepted membership and we are extremely excited to move forward together. Our new schools have already added an enthusiastic spirit to the BIG EAST. We know they are bringing outstanding levels of athletic competition and academic excellence."
"We are very excited as we formally embark on a new chapter in the history of The BIG EAST Conference," added Mark Nordenberg, Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh and the Chair of the league's Presidents. "We have already become friends and colleagues with our new members, and we look forward to a future that will be rewarding for everyone."
In 2005-06, The BIG EAST Conference will include: the University of Cincinnati, University of Connecticut, DePaul University, Georgetown University, University of Louisville, Marquette University, University of Notre Dame, University of Pittsburgh, Providence College, Rutgers University, St. John's University, Seton Hall University, University of South Florida, Syracuse University, Villanova University and West Virginia University.
For football, the BIG EAST will have an eight-team alignment - Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, USF, Syracuse, and West Virginia. A charter member of the Bowl Championship Series, the BIG EAST will begin its league schedule this fall when West Virginia plays at Syracuse on Sept. 4. The game will be nationally televised on ABC.
Cincinnati, with an enrollment of 33,000, sponsors 18 sports. The Bearcats' first BIG EAST competitive event with be a men's soccer game at Louisville on Sept. 7.
DePaul has an enrollment of 23,600 and sponsors 15 sports. The Blue Demons will begin BIG EAST play on Sept. 16 when the men's soccer team hosts Georgetown and the women's soccer team plays at Notre Dame.
Louisville, with an enrollment of 24,000, has 22 sports. Like Cincinnati, the Cardinals' first BIG EAST match is Sept. 7 when U of L hosts the Bearcats.
Marquette, with an enrollment of 11,000, sponsors 14 sports. MU meets BIG EAST opponents for the first time on Sept. 16. Marquette will play at Syracuse in men's soccer. The women's soccer team will host South Florida.
The University of South Florida has an enrollment of 42,000. USF sponsors 18 sports. Like DePaul and Marquette, the Bulls' men's and women's soccer teams will be the first to taste BIG EAST competition. On Sept. 16, the USF men's soccer team hosts Seton Hall. The women's team plays at Marquette.
The BIG EAST is also launching its new web site today in conjunction with College Sports Online. The address, www.bigeast.org, remains the same.
Since opening its doors in 1979, the BIG EAST has won 25 national championships in six different sports and 123 student-athletes have won individual national titles. More than 300 student-athletes have earned Academic All-America honors.
BIG EAST institutions reside in seven of the nation's top 30 largest media markets, including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C., Tampa, Pittsburgh and Hartford. With the incoming members, the BIG EAST markets will contain almost one fourth of television households in the U.S.