January 19, 2012
By Sarah Hanan
After its recent impressive win in the BBVA Compass Bowl, SMU celebrated its milestone move into the BIG EAST Conference on Thursday, January 19, at Hughes-Trigg Student Center Commons.
SMU President R. Gerald Turner, Director of Athletics Steve Orsini, Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad Cheves and Student Body President Austin Prentice were joined at the event by BIG EAST Commissioner John M. Marinatto, as well as SMU coaches, student-athletes and numerous supporters.
SMU accepted the invitation to join the BIG EAST Conference in all sports in December, fulfilling the University’s goal to join a Bowl Championship Series Automatic Qualifier conference, a standard of excellence in college athletics today.
At the celebration Thursday, President Turner said SMU’s move to the BIG EAST presents a great new series of athletic competitions and new opportunities for the University and Dallas area. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to not only sell our University and show the competitiveness of our teams,” he said, “but it also will be good to bring people to Dallas and to take Dallas to the Northeast.”
Commissioner Marinatto said the addition of SMU and four other schools to the BIG EAST represents a significant step toward becoming the NCAA’s “first truly national conference.” Houston and the University of Central Florida also accepted full membership into the BIG EAST, while Boise State and San Diego State will compete as members in the sport of football.
“After a third straight season of appearing in a bowl game, we believe we have seen just the beginning of the resurgence of the SMU football program,” Marinatto said. “Joining the BIG EAST Conference will be a perfect next step toward helping SMU return as a nationally prominent program in the very near future.”
He added that SMU shares the conference goal of making the BIG EAST the best basketball conference in the country. “With great facilities and a talent-rich area such as Dallas, Texas, to recruit from — and now the BIG EAST Conference to play in —— I fully expect SMU’s men’s and women’s basketball programs to regularly compete for an NCAA tournament berth in the very near future,” Marinatto said.
Athletics Director Orsini described the move as a huge step for SMU.
“The BIG EAST, under Conference Commissioner Marinatto’s leadership, represents the highest standard of excellence in college athletics today both on and off the field, in courts of competition, for all 17 of our sports and over 430 student athletes,” Orsini said. “SMU is back. We are ready, willing and able to continue our ascent to top 25 in everything we do in the BIG EAST.”
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