Big East, Big Ten to hold challenge

Updated: May 4, 2014, 9:04 PM ET
By Dana O'Neil | ESPN.com

At his heart, Dave Gavitt was an innovator, a tinkerer who was always looking for ways to make the game of college basketball better.

No doubt, then, the Hall of Famer and Big East Conference founder would approve of the series that will carry his name.

The Big Ten and the Big East on Monday will announce a new partnership, the Gavitt Tipoff Games, an annual series of eight games between the two conferences that will run through 2020.

What separates this pairing from the others like it, though, is the timing. The games, which will begin in 2015-16, 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.

"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," said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. "The Big East is relaunching itself. We are, in a way, relaunching ourselves. This is a great way to do that."

Two games will be played on the first Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the regular season, played at school home sites -- four at a Big East school, four at a Big Ten school.

Each Big East team will play a minimum of six times during the length of the eight-year deal, and each Big Ten program will participate at least four times.

Individual match-ups will be announced in the spring.

FOX Sports1 will televise the Big East home games; ESPN or the Big Ten Network will carry the home Big Ten contests.

The Big Ten-ACC Challenge will continue as always.

"The din of football makes it hard to start the season with the appropriate fanfare," Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said. "This is a chance to herald to the world that the basketball season has started. That's good for the game and good for our conferences."

The potential for some particular match-ups is especially intriguing. Georgetown, for example, has long refused to play Maryland in basketball, a slight that moved Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson to cease games involving the two teams in all sports recently.

Now, at least potentially, the two could play one another.

"These match-ups won't always be geographic; we're going to do them based on competitive parity," Ackerman said. "We'll look at who are expected to be the strongest teams in each league and pair them against each other and sort of tier it, so we get the best match-ups."

Along with serving the greater good of the game, the Gavitt Tipoff Games will benefit the individual conferences as well. Both leagues are stretching their boundaries into each other's territories, so to speak, with the Big Ten adding Maryland and Rutgers on the East, and the Big East adding in Xavier, Butler and Creighton.

Delany makes no bones about his desire -- and the league's need -- to have a presence in the New York market, especially now that the ACC already has laid claim to Barclays Center for future basketball tournaments.

"We're trying to live here. We're not visiting," Delany said of New York. "Our goal is to bind the two regions together. We want to be in the two regions and live in the two regions.

For the Big East, which is working to re-establish itself from the ashes of conference realignment, the series offers its member teams a chance to play high-profile teams in premiere games, as well as honor Gavitt, the league's founding father.

"Our coaches want to play hard schools; they understand the importance of strength of schedule," Ackerman said. "But they also like the idea of paying homage to Dave, so there is a real emotional tie for all of us."

A news conference to officially announce the series is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET Monday at Madison Square Garden.

Dana O'Neil | email

College Basketball

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