“It’s an endorsement of who we are and how we’ve gotten here, as well as where we can go next,” said Graham.
The Big East provides additional exposure and a big boost for admissions, alumni and fundraising efforts across the nation.
“So it’s not just about athletics, it’s about the whole institution and about the institution at its heart, which is an academic place,” Graham said.
It’s a very exciting time for Xavier’s broad-based 18-sport athletic program, which has sent eight different teams to NCAA postseason championships in recent years: baseball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s golf, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, men’s tennis and women’s volleyball.
Presidents of the new Big East member schools, including Graham, gathered in New York Wednesday to announce a series of seminal developments that will help shape the basketball-focused conference, including an unprecedented partnership with Fox Sports that will grant the network exclusive broadcast rights.
Fox Sports and its Fox Sports 1 Network is acquiring television rights to all Big East game action as part of a 12-year contract. Under the broadcast partnership, Fox Sports will own television rights to a wide range of marquee Big East basketball games, including the annual Big East conference tournament.
The Big East Conference officially commences operations on July 1. Each of the inaugural members are full conference participants starting in the 2013-2014 academic year. Each school is competing in all of the sports it offers today. The Big East Tournament continues to call Madison Square Garden its home, and the new conference assumes an existing lease agreement that extends to 2026.
The Big East was formed in 1979 to celebrate the student-athlete and showcase some of the nation’s greatest collegiate basketball programs at schools with rich academic traditions. The new conference marks a return to the Big East’s roots as a basketball-centric conference working in the best interests of student-athletes.
Xavier’s men’s basketball program has made two NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearances (2004 and 2008) in addition to three NCAA Sweet 16 appearances (2009, 2010 and 2012) in the last 10 years. XU has been to seven of the last eight NCAA Tournaments and 11 of the last 13. The women’s basketball program has made two NCAA Elite Eight appearances as well (2001 and 2010) and has made five of the last seven NCAA Tournaments. Men’s soccer advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament this past fall.
Xavier, which is ranked 11th in the nation in the latest NCAA Graduation Success Rate report at 97 percent, is excited to align itself with private schools that share a like commitment to academics and athletics. Xavier had 14 programs at 100 percent in the latest NCAA GSR report. In men’s basketball, XU has graduated each of the last 88 players that have played as seniors, a streak which dates back to 1986.
Xavier has been a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference for 18 years, beginning with the 1995-96 school year. Previously, Xavier was a member of the MCC (now known as the Horizon League) from 1979-80 through 1994-95. For a brief three-year period, 1983-86, Xavier’s women’s sports competed in the North Star Conference.
New York-based senior executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associate is conducting the search for the new Big East’s first commissioner, seeking an aggressive and innovative commissioner to shepherd the conference to continued success and enhance its history of excellence in a wide variety of collegiate team sports.