Big East Business

Last year, when the Big East Conference expanded to 16 teams, some schools wondered how the new league would play out. Notre Dame head men's basketball coach Mike Brey saw first hand how tough it would be as eight teams from the conference made the NCAA Tournament.

The man in charge of the change was commissioner Mike Tranghese. He made the bold move to expand the league and make it even more competitive. This decision seems to be paying off for men's basketball. Last week, the Big East and CBS signed a multi-year extension to continue airing the hoop contests. Included in the deal, there will be an increase of a minimum of 11 games between conference members to 14. The agreement in place allows the two sides to continue to do business through the year 2012-13 and next year will be the 21st straight season for Big East basketball on CBS Sports. In Monday's sitdown with the media, Irish athletics directors Kevin White heaped praise upon the boss of the league.

"I think Mike Tranghese did a great job of bringing in an eclectic group of institutions together under a common purpose," White said. "He's very quickly made it a player again but a player like it's never been. The best way that I can speak to that is the most recent television negotiations for the Big East men's and women's basketball contract with CBS. It's a phenomenal uptick in resources. I'm stunned how good he did in the negotiations."

The Big East is one of only three conferences in the nation with a deal to have their basketball games on CBS. It'll be tough to top last season's performance when the league sent eight teams to the Big Dance. Connecticut and Villanova each earned top seeds in their respective regionals. The Big East was well-represented in the Sweet 16 with four teams advancing that far.

Notre Dame faces a tough challenge in 2006-07. It's been three years since the Irish last participated in the real March Madness. With seniors Chris Quinn, Torin Francis and Rick Cornett all graduating from a 16-14 squad that was bounced in the second round of the NIT by Michigan, the road will be difficult to navigate, especially in the ultra competitive Big East.

Football is not affiliated with the league. The Irish are still independents and judging by the recent comments of White have no plans to get involved in a conference. But starting in 2009, Notre Dame will play three Big East teams per season. This helps soften the schedule because the league is not a powerhouse from top to bottom. West Virginia did beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl last season but the Mountaineers and Louisville appear to be the only real threats on a year-in, year-out basis. Only three of the eight teams in the Big East finished with an above .500 record.

"I think there is just about the same enthusiasm about the Big East football side," White said. "We're excited about our three football game relationship from 2009 and on with the Big East."

Overall, the Irish cleaned up in the league in 2005-06. Notre Dame had a school and conference record 13 Big East Championships. Three teams won the league and tournament titles (women's soccer, volleyball and baseball). Through the first spring sports standings, the Irish sit in 5th in the 2005-06 NACDA Directors' Cup race with 880.5 points. Stanford is leading the pack with 1133.375 points. Top Stories