Big East Commissioner to leave in year

June 10, 2008 9:15:05 AM PDT
Mike Tranghese, who presided over the Big East's expansion from a basketball conference to one of college football's top-tier leagues, is leaving as commissioner next year. The 64-year-old Tranghese, who became commissioner in 1990, said Thursday he would step down at the end of next June while the conference was enjoying unprecedented success. No successor has been chosen.

"I'm a little Italian kid from Springfield, Mass., who couldn't play. I was a manager," Tranghese said on a conference call. "And I got to be commissioner of the Big East Conference for 19 years. It's a fairy tale."

Under Tranghese, the Big East eventually expanded to 16 schools to become the largest Division I-A conference in the nation, a move that saved the league when it appeared football would break it apart.

The league added five schools in 2005 following the high-profile defections of Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech - all football powers - to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Tranghese said the conference's ability to absorb those losses and remain intact was his proudest memory as commissioner.

"The vast majority of people wrote us off for dead," Tranghese said. "It was an interesting time, because I think you find out who your friends are."

To replace the schools that left for the ACC, Tranghese brought Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida into the league, as well as traditional basketball powers Marquette and DePaul, bringing membership to the current 16.

Tranghese has been with the conference since it formed in 1979 and was its first full-time employee as an assistant commissioner. The conference was largely known in its early years as a basketball juggernaut, sending three schools - Villanova, St. John's and Georgetown - to the 1985 Final Four, still the only time that has happened.

But Tranghese, who was commissioner during the league's inaugural football season in 1991, said he was pleased with the recent success of Big East schools on the gridiron. The conference now has an automatic BCS berth, and Tranghese said West Virginia's win over Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl was a defining moment in his tenure.

"We're recruiting better than we ever recruited before," Tranghese said. "All eight of our schools feel that if they do their jobs, they have the ability to win the league."

Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim said Tranghese was crucial to building the Big East and his loss is a "blow to the conference." He said Tranghese will be difficult to replace.

"He's a close, close personal friend of mine and we've gone through a lot together from the beginning of this thing until now," Boeheim said, "and it will be hard to imagine the Big East without Mike being there."

Before joining the Big East, Tranghese spent seven years as the sports information director at Providence. He succeeded Dave Gavitt as Big East commissioner in 1990. Both Gavitt and Tranghese made sure the conference had contracts with national networks such as CBS and ESPN, and Tranghese was the force behind the Big East Television Network, one of the most successful regional deals.

Tranghese, who served five years on the NCAA's tournament selection committee, said he wasn't sure of his future plans.

"I'm not sick. I haven't been forced out, and I'm not going to take another job," he added.

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Associated Press Writer Michael Hill in Albany contributed to this report.

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