Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery is all in.
“I think it’s a brilliant idea and it’s going to be great for everyone,” McCaffery said of the Gavitt Tipoff Games, a season-opening eight-game series between Big Ten and Big East schools introduced Monday.
The agreement between the conferences starts in 2015 and runs for eight years, with games to be played at campus sites. The event is named after the late Dave Gavitt, who was the founder of the Big East, its first commissioner and a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
“The timing of the games is a great move,” McCaffery said Monday from New York City, where he attended the official announcement at Madison Square Garden. “It’s still football season to a lot of people. But basketball fans want to see great basketball at that time of the year. These games will create great interest and be on national TV. Fans will be excited about it and players will be excited about it.”
The eight games will be played over four consecutive days of the first full week of the college basketball season. Each Big Ten school will participate in the event a minimum of four times over the eight-year agreement. Each Big East team will participate a minimum of six times. Both leagues will host four games each season.
The event is the latest move by the Big Ten to expand its footprint on the East Coast. The league will grow to 14 teams with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers on July 1. Conference realignment also has changed the face of the 10-member Big East, where there’s now a Midwest flavor with the addition of Creighton and Butler to stand-bys Marquette and DePaul.
“In terms of everybody’s geographical footprint, everything’s changed,” McCaffery said. “We’re trying to push to the East, they’re trying to push to the Midwest. Both leagues have tremendous fan interest. I think our fans will look forward to seeing those teams come to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and watching us play them on the road on TV.”
McCaffery sees added NCAA Tournament value in opening the season against a team from another major conference.
“It will strengthen your nonconference schedule to the point where they can never say you didn’t play people before you got into league play,” McCaffery said.
He also said everyone will have plenty of time to prepare for the kind of season opener the Gavitt Tipoff Games will provide.
“You might have a little trepidation if you have a real young team,” McCaffery said. “But we’ve got enough time to get ready. You can work with your guys in the summer, and we start doing something in September now. I’d be a little more nervous if it was back in the days when we started practice on Oct. 15. We’ve got plenty of time to get our offenses and defenses put in and to get ready.”