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Big East commish intends to retire

| Friday, June 6, 2008

The Big East Conference is losing its patriarch.

Mike Tranghese, who has been with the league since its inception in 1979 and helped to navigate it through a series of startling transformations over the years, will retire as commissioner at the end of the 2008-09 season.

Tranghese, 64, presided over the Big East's expansion from a basketball conference to one of college football's respected leagues.

"I am stepping down at this point because I believe it is the right time," Tranghese said Thursday. "The conference is in great shape."

Tranghese's retirement becomes official on June 30, 2009, and no timetable was given for naming his successor.

"I'm a little Italian kid from Springfield, Mass., who couldn't play. I was a manager," Tranghese said. "I got to be commissioner of the Big East Conference for 19 years. It's a fairy tale."

The Big East, which started as a seven-team basketball league, has more than doubled its membership under Tranghese's leadership. The conference's 16 schools include Pitt and West Virginia, making it the largest NCAA Division I-A conference in the nation.

Tranghese pushed for the start of the Big East football conference, which lost key programs Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC in 2005, a move that threatened to disband the league. But the Big East recovered with the additions of South Florida, Louisville and Cincinnati.

The basketball conference also expanded by adding those three schools in addition to Marquette and DePaul.

Tranghese also was the force behind the Big East Television Network, which has become one of the country's most successful regional deals.

"I believe our conference is undergoing an unprecedented period of success," he said. "Our basketball conference does not have to take a back seat to anyone, and our football has progressed so quickly. Our Olympic sports are stronger than ever. And I believe everything is in place for the Big East to be even better in the future."

As expected, officials at Pitt and West Virginia expressed gratitude for Tranghese's efforts in helping to maintain the Big East's strength and credibility.

"What began as a small regional basketball league has grown under his guidance into one of the most diverse and broadly accomplished athletic conferences in the country," Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg said. "The University of Pittsburgh always will be indebted to Michael Tranghese for his passionate dedication to our conference and its member universities. Clearly, the Big East would not be the conference that it is today except for his leadership."

Pitt athletic director Steve Pedersen, who returned last year for his second stint with the Panthers -- all during Tranghese's tenure -- called Tranghese "one of the great leaders in collegiate athletics."

West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong agreed.

"He is truly one of the outstanding leaders in college athletics today," Pastilong said. "West Virginia University will forever be indebted to him for his vision in establishing the Big East football conference in 1991, and then helping to pave the way for WVU to become a full member of the Big East in 1996. His guidance has made the Big East one of the strongest members of the BCS (Bowl Championship Series)."

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