MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Before heading to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., for this week's Big East Conference meetings, associate commissioner for basketball Dan Gavitt wondered if Connecticut men's basketball's historic Big East Tournament tile run would alter the way coaches thought the tournament should be structured in the future.
For the past three years, all 16 conference teams were invited, but there were detractors. Some coaches thought it was too hard for the top four teams to survive a two-round bye. Others believed a team in the bottom half of the league wouldn't win five games in five days to earn the championship.
Then the Huskies started as the No. 9 seed and beat No. 16 seed DePaul, No. 8 seed Georgetown, which had a bye, top seed Pitt, which had two byes, No. 4 seed Syracuse and No. 3 seed Louisville.
"That would be a great question for the coaches to answer," Gavitt said, knowing it would be a major theme at the meetings. "They're the ones who live it, but I imagine it has to have some bearing on the discussion because it actually happened. Before it was only theoretical. Now it's real, even though it doesn't take away from the fact it's very hard to do."
The coaches tipped their hand Tuesday. It's believed the coaches voted to recommend to the league's athletic directors and presidents to invite all 17 teams to the tournament beginning in the 2012-13 season, when Texas Christian becomes a member. The Horned Frogs join in all sports July 1, 2012.
The Big East made no announcement Tuesday, though a conference source said one could come as soon as today, the third and final day of the spring meetings. From there, the plan would have to be approved by the league's athletic directors and then passed by the presidents, who won't meet until the fall, though a vote could be expedited.
WVU athletic director Oliver Luck declined comment Tuesday. President Jim Clements had not spoken to Luck or Coach Bob Huggins. Clements, who said previously he'd likely endorse what Luck and Huggins supported, was not aware of a decision to go with 17 teams and said it was too soon to have an opinion.
There had been thought given to the idea of inviting 12 or 16 teams beginning in the 2013 tournament. Last year the coaches voted unanimously to keep 16 teams, but alter the format. With their proposal, the first day would have had games between teams seeded Nos. 1 and 16, Nos. 2 and 15, Nos. 3 and 14 and Nos. 4 and 13. The winners would receive a bye on the second day when games would be between Nos. 5 and 12, Nos. 6 and 11, Nos. 7 and 10 and Nos. 8 and 9. Winners from the first two days would meet on the third day.
The presidents voted down that idea.
From 2006-08, the first three years the Big East had 16 basketball schools, Madison Square Garden would only play host to 12 teams.
With all 17 teams involved, the coaches would likely necessitate a play-in game between the 16th and 17th teams to get into a 16 team bracket. From there, the idea raised last year could then be used or the coaches could maintain the unpopular double-bye format.
"I think it depends on who you're talking to because this is a membership issue and it's about what the membership wants," Gavitt said last week. "I can only speak for myself, but I, for one, never thought what happened would actually happen. I don't think in the history of college basketball any team has won five games in five days. I don't think anyone had played five games in five days, let alone win them."