Looks like Rutgers won't be leaving the Big East completely behind after all.
Today, the Big Ten and Big East announced plans to tip the basketball season off with 8 games (4 in Big Ten homes, 4 in Big East homes) against each other. The Tipoff Challenge will begin in 2015.
Dave Gavitt was a great man who loved the game and was instrumental in the growth of Eastern basketball. To have this series named in his honor is tremendous. Given that Rutgers is a former Big East member and soon-to-be Big Ten member, this arrangement is definitely special for us. The start of basketball season is an exciting time. To have a series such as this, between two great conferences with memberships so rich in history, will only magnify that excitement.
While opponents are currently unknown, and not all teams will partake, it is possible that the current Rutgers/Seton Hall match-up may count as part of this event.
We are excited to honor Dave Gavitt and his contributions to the sport of basketball through the establishment of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Dave was a friend and a mentor to me and often mentioned that college basketball should do a better job of tipping off the season, similar to opening day in baseball. I think he would approve of our effort to start a new tipoff tradition, grow the game and serve the best interests of the student-athletes and coaches in these two great conferences.
This (along with tomorrow's announcement that the Big Ten Tournament will rotate into the Verizon Center in Washington DC in 2017) is yet another move for the conference to continue to migrate east. The strides basketball is making to interact with eastern cities and colleges will shine a brighter light on the Big Ten on this side of the country. This can only be good for Rutgers basketball, helping them an Maryland fit into the conference even better.
And if Eddie Jordan can get this team rolling by 2017, it's only a 4 hour train trip to DC. Rutgers fans and Maryland fans would take over.
At the same time, this will help the Big East's RPI, which has suffered once it split with the football schools, a move they had to make.
While some have taken to Twitter, unhappy that their new conference is helping out the old one, it must be remember that ultimately Rutgers won. They are in the best basketball conference (okay, ACC that's debatable, but I'm rolling here), and probably the most prestigious football and academic conference in the country (shhh, Ivies, I'm not talking to you). The demise of the Big East isn't needed and will not help college sports in the long run. Ultimately, the demise of the Big East will only push the NCAA toward its end.
I'm not rooting for that.
I don't want there to only be 64 schools competing against each other in 4 big conferences, while all other schools are just schools. I don't want mid-March--the greatest 4 days in sports--to go away. As a basketball fan first, I want Rutgers to succeed with college basketball as is. The world needs the NCAA Tournament, and Rutgers needs to compete and get there.
You don't legislate and push the competition out when it comes to athletics. You get better and win games.
I, for one, welcome this new Tipoff Challenge. If/when Rutgers participates, it will be yet another solid opponent to play against.. fewer cupcakes and more reasons to watch the games.
And, isn't that what sports is about? The games?
Dave Gavitt didn't bow down to football, and that's okay. He created a conference that was legendary in its time. But ultimately, in the past 20 years, Rutgers won off the court. They went from the A-10 to the Big East-to the Big Ten.
And that's where they'll stay.
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