December 7, 2011
DALLAS (SMU) – SMU has accepted an invitation to join the BIG EAST Conference in all sports, President R. Gerald Turner announced today, fulfilling the University’s goal to join a Bowl Championship Series Automatic Qualifier (BCS-AQ) conference, a standard of excellence in college athletics today.
SMU, Houston and the University of Central Florida have accepted full membership into the BIG EAST while Boise State and San Diego State will compete as members in the sport of football. The BIG EAST Conference Board of Directors, by a unanimous vote of its Presidents, extended the invitations for membership. SMU, Houston and UCF will begin competing in all BIG EAST‐sponsored sports in the 2013‐14 academic year, while Boise State and San Diego State will start competing in football in the 2013 season.
“Over the last 32 years, the BIG EAST Conference has constantly evolved along with the landscape of college athletics,” said BIG EAST Commissioner John Marinatto. “The inclusion of these five great universities, which bring a unique blend of premier academics, top markets, strong athletics brands and outstanding competitive quality, marks the beginning of a new chapter in that evolution. We are proud to welcome these schools to the BIG EAST family.
“Much like the conference as a whole, the BIG EAST name ‐‐ though derived 32 years ago based on the geography of our founding members ‐‐ has evolved into a highly respected brand that transcends borders, boundaries or regions. It’s national. Our membership makeup is now reflective of that.”
The five new schools join Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers and USF as the teams competing in football in the BIG EAST Conference and UCF, Houston and SMU join DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova in all other sports. With the addition of the five new schools, the BIG EAST will have the largest footprint of any college football conference in the nation, with a coast-to‐coast presence spanning eight states in five different regions of the country.
By joining the BIG EAST Conference, SMU continues its push toward becoming a top-25 athletic program. On the field of play, SMU has been ranked as the top school in its conference for 11 of the last 14 years in the Director’s Cup overall athletic rankings. From an infrastructure standpoint, SMU has embarked on an $80-million plan to build new facilities and improve existing ones. The $13-million, 43,000 square-foot Crum Basketball Center, a basketball-only practice facility adjacent to Moody Coliseum, opened in February 2008, and the Turpin Tennis Stadium opened in April of the same year. Phase I of the SMU Payne Stewart Golf Learning Center at the Dallas Athletic Club was completed in 2010 and updates to the Loyd Center, which houses coaches’ offices, athletic administration, sports medicine, strength and conditioning and academic support services, have been made. A new integrated video and audio system was installed at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in 2010, and a renovated football locker room and team meeting rooms, along with new stadium turf, were completed prior to the 2011 season. Renovations to Moody Coliseum, which began in 2008 with the installation of a new $900,000 video board and redesigned court, will ramp up in the coming year as SMU has announced a $40-million-plus plan for a complete facility renovation and expansion expected to be completed in time for SMU’s first season in the BIG EAST.
Academically, SMU’s new conference features six schools ranked among the top 82 universities in U.S. News’ 2012 ranking of Best National Universities. At No. 62, SMU ranks fourth among all BIG EAST schools in the category.
In adding SMU and the Dallas-Fort Worth television market, the nation’s fifth-largest, the BIG EAST Conference further strengthens its media presence. BIG EAST markets already contain almost one-fourth of all television households in the United States – more than twice as many households as any other conference. BIG EAST institutions will now reside in four of the nation’s top-five media markets, six of the top 10 and 12 of the top 35. Cities like Dallas, Houston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., all fall in the BIG EAST footprint.
“Our move to the BIG EAST is good for SMU, for Dallas and for this region of the country and reflects the reemergence of our successful football program under the leadership of June Jones,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Coupled with our steady rise academically and athletically, we are in a good position to continue our rise among national universities. On top of that, a grassroots effort of our alumni, elected officials and steadfast supporters coast-to-coast gave us the momentum we needed. We look forward to this new era of competition.”
Headquartered in Providence, R.I., the BIG EAST Conference was formed in 1979. The league has won 31 national championships in six sports with 133 student-athletes capturing individual national titles. Specifically for football, the BIG EAST is an automatic qualifier (AQ) to the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), meaning the league champion is assured a berth in one of the five BCS bowl games on an annual basis. Those bowls include the Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and the BCS National Championship game.
In men’s and women’s basketball, BIG EAST teams have excelled at the highest levels, winning 14 national championships. In 2004, Connecticut men’s and women’s teams both won NCAA titles in the same season.
“This is a great day for SMU,” said Director of Athletics Steve Orsini. “This is a move that will impact all aspects of the collegiate experience at SMU. Our move to the BIG EAST will help us increase our exposure and visibility and will raise SMU’s profile on a national level. BIG EAST membership represents SMU’s return to the highest level of collegiate athletics.”
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