The end of the Big East as we know it; women’s basketball members reflect and look forward
At around 9:30 p.m. ET tonight, either Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw or Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma will lift the Big East conference women’s basketball tournament trophy. Neither of them will be able to do the same thing next season. First, Pitt and Syracuse announced their departures to the Atlantic Coast Conference; then the “Catholic Seven” schools announced their departure from the current Big East structure. They are taking the name with them. Finally, today the departure of Notre Dame to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season has been confirmed. Connecticut, South Florida, Cincinnati will be in a newly named conference next season with many new schools and Rutgers and Louisville for more season.
Friendships and rivalries, upsets and blow outs, stars, favorites and adversaries, all gone. Swept away with the football programs and the almighty dollar. So as we prepare for what should be an exciting championship game, it is important to look back at the Big East as its been. There is probably no better way than through the words of the members themselves, the departing players and coaches.
Skylar Diggins, senior guard from Notre Dame, concluding her college career and heading into the WNBA
It’s (the Big East) the best conference in the country. Its amazing playing night in, night out, you’re going to be challenged against any team you go up against. Final Four appearances with us playing UConn are crazy; the Big East gets eight and nine teams in the tournament. It’s great competition and the Big East is what prepares you for the NCAA tournament, because you’re going out playing Sweet Sixteen, national championship caliber games every night. It’s been great for me, a blessing to come into this league at Notre Dame and I’m proud to be at Notre Dame. I’m glad I finished it in this league.
Harry Perretta, Villanova head coach and an original Big East member, “moving” to the new Big East for 2013-14
Being in the conference was wonderful, it helps everybody even though Connecticut was the dominant team and now Notre Dame is up there with them. Even though those teams were dominant, it helped the other teams because we were able to get recruits who wanted to come and play against those teams, so it helped us that way.
Now, the new league will help us in a couple of different ways. The schools are evenly—I don’t want to say evenly matched, but if you look at the schools they’re similar academically, everything about them is similar, enrollment, facilities, things like that.
In that league you may get players because now you’re going to be in a much more competitive environment in terms of being able to complete for a championship, so it’s different in both. Both help you, but it’s the way that college basketball has developed, so there is nothing I can do about it but try to deal with it.
Doug Bruno, DePaul head coach, “moving” to the new Big East for 2013-14
I think it was said by somebody, maybe it was Geno (Auriemma), that the league got stronger when the league restructured with all of us entering in 2005 and 2006. We helped the Big East get stronger, and it’s been a great conference for DePaul women’s basketball. I think we have held our own and finished as high as second place once. It’s been a good, strong competitive mix, throughout, so I think it’s been a mutually beneficial eight years.
It has been a great eight years; it gets a little bit nostalgic now that it’s over. The competition is over, so it starts to really sink in that this is the last tournament, but we will move on in the Catholic Seven. It’s not going to be called the Catholic Seven, but the new league is going to be a great league in its own right. I think the challenge in the new league is for someone, and I expect it to be DePaul University, to step up and take what we have learned from this league and make ourselves a UConn.
Quentin Hillsman, Syracuse head coach, heading to the ACC for 2013-14
I grew up in this conference. This is where I started. This was my first head coaching job. I grew up in this conference, just starting to find my way and starting to get more comfortable with being on the sidelines and coaching. This conference has meant everything to me.
Obviously I have some great colleagues and people in the conference office and in different arena. Getting to know all the restaurants and the hotels, but I think most of all for me it’s about the vision of our program and where we’re going.
We’re going to a pretty good conference and there will be some great teams. Most of all its new and exciting but I still have friends in this conference and in the conference office. Our administration is awesome, and they have made great decisions from our facilities down to the game management and to where we’re going, so I’ve got a lot of faith in them.
Agnus Berenato, Pittsburgh head coach, heading to the ACC for 2013-14
There is a saying that all things come to an end and I think that it (Pitt’s loss in the first round) was just a tough way to end our existence in the Big East. The Big East is no longer what we used to know it to be, but Pitt is moving on and so is the Big East. I just wanted to say that this conference has been great to me, women’s basketball and the University of Pittsburgh. I truly believe that in this year, and the past couple of years, we have had the best conference for women’s basketball in our country, bar none.
Brianna Kiesel, sophomore guard from Pittsburgh, heading to the ACC for 2013-14
In the Big East there have been a lot of good players that I have seen. Just getting a chance to play against the Kaleena’s (Mosqueda-Lewis) and the Bria Hartley’s and the Shoni Schimmel’s, there is a whole bunch of different things that they bring to the table and to their teams. I think I have learned a lot from the players I have played against. Although we did not do as well as we would have liked to, I think we grew in the last few years by being there. And I am looking forward to next year. Now I have had two years in the Big East and I know what the Big East is like, and I’m going to have two years in the ACC and see that that is going to be like.