Big East and Big Ten annual series set for 2015

The last time DePaul and Illinois faced off in college basketball, the top song in the country was Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up.”

Presley’s song, released in 1957, took the nation by storm and is still a classic today. Meanwhile, in that same time frame, Illinois beat DePaul 75-70 Dec. 7, 1957. It’s been 56 years since then.

Thanks to a deal between the Big East and Big Ten conferences, the possibility of that matchup could finally happen again.

The two conferences announced May 5 that they will meet in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, an annual eight-game series that starts in 2015.

The series will take place at the beginning of the college basketball season. Each Big East team will be required to play a minimum of six times – four of those being in men’s basketball – over the course of the eight year deal. Each Big Ten team will be required to participate four times.

“It’s good in terms of having a big time event that signifies the season started,” DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell said. “If you look historically, college basketball really hasn’t had a big kickoff.”

“The Big Ten is arguably the best league in the country,” Purnell said.

The eight games will take place Tuesday through Friday. Four games will take place at a Big East school, televised by Fox Sports 1, and four at a Big Ten school, televised on ESPN or the Big Ten network.

The Gavitt Tipoff Games is named after Dave Gavitt, the former Big East commissioner who was a pioneer in getting college basketball on cable. Gavitt died in 2011.

“Dave was such a great innovator and contributed so much to the game; I think it’s great that there’s something in the world of college basketball that bears his names,” DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto said. “I think both conferences stand to benefit. I think you’re going to get a real early barometer about both conferences.”

Purnell said that DePaul had been in discussions over the last few years with Big Ten teams, but the negotiations didn’t work out for most of them. One Big Ten opponent that DePaul has scheduled over the years, Northwestern, will continue.

Ponsetto said that the Northwestern-DePaul matchup will take a year off in 2014, but then will resume for the next five years. DePaul last beat Northwestern 57-56 on an exciting Billy Garrett Jr. buzzerbeater in December.

Ponsetto wasn’t sure if DePaul would be selected as one of the eight teams playing in the first year of the series, but indicated that they have left open the first week of the college basketball season in case they are selected.

“We’d certainly be willing to be one of the first teams in the mix,” Ponsetto said. “I think being in Chicago and having a lot of connections in terms of rivalries and presence of teams of the Big East and the Big Ten, it would make sense that DePaul would be participating. It really depends how it plays out with everyone else’s non-conference schedule.”

Besides the Illinois matchup, Ponsetto indicated that Wisconsin, Michigan, Purdue and Indiana would be just some of the games DePaul was very interested in. The Big Ten had six tournament teams last season while the Big East had four.

“All the schools that are contiguous to Illinois, I think that’s a good thing,” Ponsetto said. “The opportunities are pretty endless and I think it would be real interesting to our fans.”

The full slate of games will be announced later in the spring.