When the Big East was formed in 1979, the western-most school among the seven members was Syracuse. When the league expanded a couple of years later, it went way west — adding Pittsburgh (and also Villanova). That gave the league nine members, just three of which — Syracuse, Boston College and Pittsburgh — played in college football’s top division.
As it turned out, it was the perfect basketball conference: built on major TV markets and Hall of Fame coaches.
By 1985, the conference had won two national titles and had been represented in the Final Four five times, with three schools — Georgetown, St. John’s and eventual champion Villanova — in the 1985 semifinals. Two years later, two more schools — Syracuse and Providence — reached the Final Four. Two years after that, it was Seton Hall. A year later, Connecticut emerged as a power and just missed the Final Four.
Then came football — and chaos.