USF seeks to host new league's basketball tournaments
TAMPA -- As USF prepares for its final Big East men's basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York, the Bulls are interested in lobbying for Tampa to host the postseason tournament in its new league.
"We want it here in Tampa," executive associate athletic director Bill McGillis said Saturday. "We definitely will explore that to the fullest. When we get back from the conference tournament, we'll be huddling up with (Tampa Bay Sports Commission executive director) Rob (Higgins)."
The Big East is splitting into two leagues this summer, with its non-football members leaving with the Big East name; USF, Cincinnati and Connecticut, as well as incoming programs, will be in a new, as-yet-unnamed league starting this fall. The new league will need a new basketball postseason home, and Tampa is one of several cities to express an interest in hosting.
"We're fortunate to have a rich tradition of hosting major collegiate basketball events in our community and are intrigued by our current future possibilities," Higgins said Saturday. "We'll await direction from USF and their conference officials as to how a potential bid process may unfold."
The Tampa Bay Times Forum has played host to both the ACC and SEC men's tournaments in recent years, as well as NCAA Tournament games and the 2008 Women's Final Four, which returns to Tampa in 2015. Memphis, which has hosted Conference USA's tournament as well as the SEC event, is expected to bid for the tournament, as well as Hartford, which is also a strong favorite to host the women's event, as it has for the Big East for the past 10 years.
The conference's new lineup isn't nearly as northern as it was in the Big East, with 10 schools -- Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova -- leaving the league this summer, and Louisville and Rutgers leaving next year.
The new schools joining USF, Cincinnati and Connecticut are generally more southern, which could help Tampa: Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, SMU and Temple this summer, with East Carolina and Tulane joining in a year. The league will announce its new name by July 1, with "America 12" among the options reportedly being considered.