By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer
NEW YORK - Big East commissioner Michael Trangheseassured skeptics and his own conference members that the additions of five Conference USA schools, including the University of Cincinnati, will keep the Big East at the forefront of college athletics.
Speaking at a press conference at the Grand Hyatt hotel Tuesday, Tranghese said that while the league loses football stalwarts Miami and Virginia Tech, he expects to keep a Bowl Championship Series bid when the contract is renegotiated after 2005.
And he pointed out that merging Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette and DePaul with the already strong Big East basketball programs would make for an elite basketball conference, if not the nation's best.
"On the basketball side," Tranghese said, "I never say we're the best, but we're clearly as good as anybody, any conference that's ever been put together."
But when it comes to football without Miami and Virginia Tech, the Big East has work to do to improve its image and to get the new members, Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida, on a playing level representative of major-college football.
"We obviously will fulfill our current (BCS) contractual obligation, but I'm very confident that we'll be there in the next go-around," Tranghese said.
The Big East also will sit at the table with ESPN/ABC in about a week to reconfigure its national football and basketball television contracts. The Big East has more leverage on the basketball side, but Tranghese declined to say if it would be enough to compensate losing money on the football contract.
"The collegiate marketplace has not been very good in negotiating contracts in football or basketball for the last several months," Syracuse athletic director Jake Crouthamel said. "Despite the fact that we will have more good games, more good inventory, we'll have to see."
Tranghese and others at the press conference stressed that the new members, and the current members, show potential to approach what Miami and Virginia Tech achieved during the last four years.
"Virginia Tech developed into a tremendous football program ... ," Connecticut athletic director Jeff Hathaway said. "And they deserve those accolades. I think we see the same thing with schools that we have brought in."
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