Butler University, Creighton University and Xavier University officially announced Wednesday their plans to join the new Big East Conference, filling out a 10-school league that also signed a 12-year television package to air games on Fox Sports’ emerging network.
The conference, which includes the seven Catholic schools from the old Big East, also agreed to play its men’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden for the next three years, the group said at a news conference in New York to announce the broadcast deal with the News Corp. unit.
“Joining the Big East is an unprecedented opportunity for Butler and represents an ideal fit for us — academically, athletically, and geographically,” said Butler President James Danko in a written statement. "Butler’s increased national prominence will create new opportunities not only for student-athletes, but for our entire student body and for our alumni, while increasing the value of a Butler degree.”
The Butler Bulldogs’ football team will remain in the Pioneer League, while other sports will begin their Big East competition in the fall.
Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette and DePaul reached an exit agreement with the Big East on March 8, taking the conference name and rights to play at the Garden in Midtown Manhattan while leaving the league’s football schools with money collected from recent exit and entry fees.
Those schools — Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Southern Methodist, Temple, Tulane and Central Florida — have yet to pick a name for their conference, which probably will also include Navy in 2015.
Butler, a non-Catholic school that’s the sixth seed in the East region for the National Collegiate Athletic Association men's basketball tournament, and Xavier, which wasn’t selected for the national championship tourney, are leaving the Atlantic 10 Conference. Creighton, the seventh seed in the Midwest, is moving from the Missouri Valley Conference. Both Xavier and Creighton are Jesuit schools.
Butler meets Bucknell tomorrow at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., in the first full round of the NCAA men’s tournament, while Creighton plays Cincinnati at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia the following day.
The former Big East schools reached an agreement with Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN to continue their television relationship of more than 30 years. The contract gives the sports network exclusive worldwide distribution rights across all media and will continue ESPN’s coverage of the conference’s football, basketball and more sports through 2019-20.
Butler spent just one season in the A-10, rising rapidly in the college basketball world after making the national championship game in 2010 and 2011 out of the Horizon League. Butler officials invited students and staff to watch a live video feed "of the announcement Wednesday morning in Robertson Hall.
Xavier has long been one of the top basketball programs outside of what were the power six conferences. Before missing the NCAA tournament this season, it was one of only eight schools in the country to make at least seven straight NCAA appearances.
Creighton is a No. 7 seed in this year's tourney after winning its second straight MVC tournament title. The Bluejays are making their seventh NCAA appearance in 13 years.
All three are private colleges with fewer than 8,000 students, making them natural fits with the Catholic 7.
From 1946 to 1950, Butler was in the Mid-American Conference. The Bulldogs played in the Indiana Collegiate Conference from 1950 to 1978 and were independent in 1978–1979. In 1979, Butler became a charter member of the Midwestern City Conference, which was renamed Midwestern Collegiate Conference and then Horizon League.