SBD/May 5, 2014/Colleges

Big East, Big Ten Create New Men's Hoops Tourney In Effort To Relaunch Their Brands

The Big East and Big Ten conferences today announced the formation of the Dave Gavitt Tipoff Games, "a four-day, eight-game season-opening challenge between the conferences" beginning in '15-16, according to Stewart Mandel of SI.com. The event "will take place each November from Tuesday through Friday of the first full week of the season." The parties "will announce an eight-year deal at a news conference" in N.Y. ESPN, Big Ten Network and Big East partner FS1 "will televise games at the respective league's home venues." Each "will host four games." Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman: "We wanted to do something to pay tribute to [late Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt]. The geographic affinity between our two conferences made it a natural to sync up. These (conference) challenges are not uncommon. We want to do something unique, by launching the season with a challenge." The Gavitt Tipoff Games "could include more potential in-state matchups like Ohio State-Xavier or Indiana-Butler, but much like the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, games will be determined primarily by the strength of the teams." For the Big Ten, a challenge with the Big East "fits with its increasing push for visibility in the Northeast." Both Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and Ackerman "had longstanding relationships with Gavitt" (SI.com, 5/4).

A SPLASHY START: ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil wrote there is "no doubt" that Gavitt "would approve of the series that will carry his name." What "separates this pairing from the others like it, though, is the timing." The games "will be played in the first full week of the regular season, giving a splash to the tipoff for a sport that long has struggled to forge a path out of the gate." Delany: "I remember Dave Gavitt used to say to me, 'We sure know how to end a season with a bang, but we don't do what we should in the beginning.' The Big East is relaunching itself. We are, in a way, relaunching ourselves. This is a great way to do that." Delany "makes no bones about his desire -- and the league's need -- to have a presence" in the N.Y. market. Delany: "We're trying to live here. We're not visiting. Our goal is to bind the two regions together." Meanwhile, the Big Ten-ACC Challenge "will continue as always" (ESPN.com, 5/4). In Indianapolis, Zak Keefer writes the new series "is a win for the Big East, which will continue to battle perceptions that the league has lost a considerable amount of its luster following the departures of longtime conference stalwarts like Connecticut, Syracuse and Pittsburgh" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/4). In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein writes the Big East is "looking for brand awareness after Butler, Creighton and Xavier recently joined DePaul, Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, St. John's and Marquette." Ackerman: "Every conference is re-educating the public about who is in their league. Folks have to check the scorecard now -- or go to Wikipedia to look it up" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/5).
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