It’s official. Tulane University is leaving Conference USA and joining the Big East in July of 2014.
"The Big East is a distinguished collection of institutions that will be a wonderful home for Tulane," said Tulane president Scott Cowen. "We look forward to our mutual association and we are delighted to welcome the Big East to the Big Easy."
While all of us were enjoying Thanksgiving and napping in between football games, Tulane Director of Athletics Rick Dickson was busy making the move happen. “Through that time, having discussions with Mike Aresco and encouraged Scott (Cowen) to get engaged at the presidential level which he quickly did,” Rick Dickson says of the final process. With the exception of about a 24-hour hiatus during Thanksgiving and then percolated pretty good though the weekend and by Sunday night is when it resulted in the formal invitation. “
The move today was huge for Tulane and its fan base especially when you consider that less than ten years ago the school had a vote on whether or not to keep athletics. “I go back to standing in here eight or nine years the day our university voted to keep athletics,” Dickson recalled. “I think back to that time and I didn’t think they’re could be a lower point for anyone involved in athletics because we nearly lost being a division one member and university.”
Remarkably since that time Tulane has built a new baseball stadium, new basketball practice facility, renovated the basketball arena into what is now the Devlin Fieldhouse and are about to begin construction on a new on campus football stadium. On the horizon is an Olympic-style village that will serve as the home for the Green Wave’s track & field/cross country programs, the men’s and women’s tennis programs, women’s sand volleyball and football practice fields.
East Carolina University is joining the Big East in 2014 as well as a football only member. Tulane and East Carolina will give the Big East 13 football members in 2014 with UConn, Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati, Tulane, Temple, Boise State, San Diego State, UCF, SMU, Memphis, Houston and ECU being the others. Those names should sound familiar because nine of those 13 are former Conference USA teams. Navy will join the Big East as a football only member in 2015 to give the conference an even 14.
The announcement and move surprised many people. On campus very few knew of the talks and while rumors of talks had been heard, not many coaches thought the move would take place. The head coaches met with Cowen and Dickson Monday night at 6:30 and were told of the move.
“When I first found out I thought is was an aberration. I thought it was a myth and Rick is a man of his word,” said Tulane head football coach Curtis Johnson of the move who was all smiles since his team will open up a brand new football stadium when Tulane officially enters the Big East. “I think it’s going to be awesome. I just love being in this conference and you know I guess I picked the right job.”
“It’s just an exciting day for us,” said Rick Jones who is entering his 20th year as the Tulane head baseball coach and is now in his third conference. “ I saw what happened when we moved from the old Metro Conference to Conference USA how it enhanced out recruiting and assisted us in different media markets and was just a big positive. This is going to be another great step for this university.”
Jones believes that having familiar CUSA schools in the new Big East helps because he has connections to recruiting those areas already and the new markets that Tulane baseball will be introduced too will help as well. “I just think this a tremendous move for our university and certainly for my program,” Jones added.” I can tell you right now that my assistants are right back upstairs calling our recruits, our signees from this class saying, okay now in your sophomore year you’re going to be playing in the Big East. A lot of those guys are from the northeast.”
One huge aspect and even reason Tulane is very happy about joining the Big East is that 35% of their alumni are in the northeast. “There’s just no negatives with the media markets, the television exposure, the amount of revenue that is going to be able to be generated. It’s just really good for everyone involved,” Jones beamed. “Other than when you get that last out and you know you’re going to Omaha, this is probably as good as it gets.”
The Big East probably is best known for their rich history in basketball and the news of the move made Tulane head basketball coach Ed Conroy smile. “When I got the word that we were going to the Big East I of course couldn’t be happier. That is the premiere stage in college basketball and I was ecstatic. I think it’s a phenomenal move for our program and our university.”
Tulane hoops will now compete against schools like Georgetown, St. John’s, Louisville, Villanova, DePaul, Seton Hall, Marquette and Cincinnati. “When I first heard it was a possibility my first thought was how soon I can call kids,” Conroy says. “We have so many things here. One of the top universities in the country in one of the best cities in the world, and now this puts the basketball piece of that on a stage that I feel we can go up against anybody when you put it all together. I just can’t wait to get on the phone and start calling kids right now and kids, AAU coaches and high school coaches around the country.”
Tulane and East Carolina will give the Big East 13 football members in 2014 with UConn, Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati, Tulane, Temple, Boise State, San Diego State, UCF, SMU, Memphis, Houston and ECU being the others.
Those names should sound familiar because nine of those 13 are former Conference USA teams.
All in all it is a big step for the University in one very big regard. Despite how many wins the teams get, it’ll help in recruiting, exposure and more importantly the attitude on campus. Folks are smiling again in Uptown New Orleans and that is always a good thing.