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Pitt left out of Big East/SEC Challenge

| Friday, June 1, 2012, 12:16 p.m.

The Pitt men's basketball team is scrambling for a high-profile home game after being left out of the 2012 SEC/Big East Challenge.

“We discovered the day before the announcement,” athletic director Steve Pederson said. “On June 1, to try to find a good home game, that's very difficult. (The Big East) put us in a very difficult situation.”

Pitt, which is suing the Big East for the right to leave for the ACC after the 2012-13 season, was one of three Big East teams omitted when the field was announced Friday. The others are Louisville, which is expected to have one of the top teams in the conference, and 2010-11 national champion Connecticut.

Pederson said Pitt, which played at Tennessee last season as part of the first full year of the event, had expected to receive a home game in the 12-game showdown, which runs Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.

“I'm disappointed for our players because we were clearly under the impression from numerous conversations that we were in it and we were going to play a home game,” he said. “(Coach Jamie Dixon) has been holding a spot on the schedule, and somebody could have told us three months ago.”

Dixon was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Syracuse, which also is leaving the Big East for the ACC, was invited to play in the event, at Arkansas on Nov. 30, but Orange athletic director Daryl Gross said the team is “overcommitted” and can't participate.

The Big East will have 15 men's basketball teams this season after losing West Virginia to the Big 12, meaning three teams had to be left out of the event. Connecticut is playing in the Jimmy V Classic instead, and Louisville reportedly was already told by the Big East that it wouldn't be part of the field.

“The basic premise is because there are 12 games and more than 12 teams, not everyone is able to participate,” Big East director of communications Chuck Sullivan said. “Three teams had to be out. Beyond that, I can't say anything about it.”

First-year members Missouri and Texas A&M were left out of the event from the 14-school SEC.

When asked whether there was anything political about Pitt, which has the best record in the Big East in the past decade, being snubbed, Sullivan said, “Not that I'm aware of. It was a collaborative effort was between the SEC, the Big East and ESPN.”

Pederson said Pitt had a difficult time getting advanced notice, which would have allowed for contingency plans.

“We're not included in any of the meetings having to do with the operations of the league,” he said. “It made it very hard for us to get any good information.”

John Grupp is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jgrupp@tribweb.com or 412-320-7930.

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