Go Tech Go, Part 32: Getting Into the Big East

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Mike Tranghese, photo courtesy of the Big East.
Mike Tranghese, photo courtesy of the Big East.

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If there is a line of demarcation regarding the rise of the Virginia Tech football program, it was first drawn in the orange groves of southern Florida.

On October 8, 1990, the Big East Conference extended an invitation to the University of Miami to become its 10th member. It was a bold move, considering the league—which did not compete in football—had not expanded since adding the University of Pittsburgh in 1982. The invitation raised some eyebrows, too, because the Big East established itself as an urban, northeast basketball conference, and the Hurricanes – the only school located south of Washington, DC – had little basketball tradition.

But new Commissioner Mike Tranghese was worried that other football-playing conferences – possibly the ACC, possibly the Big Ten – might lure Pitt and original league members Syracuse and Boston College away. While the Big East had been a basketball boon to those schools, the price was playing as a football independent. And in the world of college athletics, football was king. So when the Big East extended its invitation to the Hurricanes, it was with one thing in mind: adding football to its conference championship lineup.

“When Mike took over as commissioner on June 2, practically the first telephone call he made was to the University of Miami,” Big East Assistant Commissioner Chris Plonsky said in 1990.