Basketball Warfare: Life in the Big East Conference
By Kevin McNamara
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The Big East Conference and its development have been an important fabric in what makes up Eastern basketball ever since its inception in 1979. From the vision of Dave Gavitt spawned a league that would immediately make its presence felt on a national level, but there was always the hovering cloud of major college football over a conference created with basketball in mind. One would believe that this all came to a head with the conference shifts of 2003, but as Kevin McNamara points out in his book, the signs had been there for years.
Unlike the chronicle of the 1988-89 season done by fellow Providence Journal-Bulletin writer Bill Reynolds (“Big Hoops”) some years ago, “Basketball Warfare” uses the early chapters to set the scene for the departure of Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech, going all the way back to important events such as the formation of the CFA (College Football Association) and subsequent suit filed by this organization and the universities of Oklahoma and Georgia against the NCAA. This suit changed the way Americans watched college sports, doing away with the idea that everyone has to be on television at least two times a season.
Along with this is another early Big East: Joe Paterno (at the time the AD at Penn State as well as the football coach) wanted to either form his own league with football being the cash cow (taking schools such as Syracuse, Pitt and BC along), or he wanted the Big East to invite the Nittany Lions. From here begins the tenuous dance between the league and major college football, leading to today’s current alignment.
After the early history lesson, McNamara writes about some of the league’s important games, players and coaches, giving readers a perspective that you don’t get to see on a daily basis. And while the chronicles of the 2005-06 season are well-done, the most important aspect of this book is the focus on the “information”, some true and some false, spread around athletics in the spring and summer months of 2003, when ACC expansion was imminent and the Big East had to come with a response. Instead of the “death sentence” many had given the league, Commissioner Mike Tranghese and his colleagues made moves that would make the Big East a viable force for years to come. There are some minor errors (the “Westchester Dog Show”), but that doesn’t take away from the quality of this work. I urge you to purchase this book.
My rating: 4 stars out of 5.