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The Story of the Little Big East Conference

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

David Blais

Asst. Sports Director

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With sports returning to Rhode Island College in the near future, teams are setting their goals and mentality for the upcoming season. Teams are also reflecting back on last season and keeping a close eye on their conference rivals. The women’s and men’s basketball teams are looking for a Little Big East Conference championship. The Little Big East championship is the most prestigious prize any Rhode Island College sports team can win. With such a rich history, it is clear why everyone gives their all to just get a chance to compete for it. The history of the Little Big East Conference as a whole is peculiar and interesting but necessary for it to become the conference we all know today.

In 1979, the Big East conference was established by then Providence College coach David Gavitt who wanted to “...assemble an east coast basketball-centric collegiate athletic conference…”. It would end up taking the country by storm being recognized as the most competitive and classiest basketball conference in the United States. The problem was smaller New England school’s with no not so good basketball teams or status to be a part of the Big East were left to fend for themselves. In September of 1984, smaller New England schools were looking to establish their own conference to make play more competitive and to shed light on the talent they had to offer.

The two schools pushing for this were the University of Massachusetts Boston and Eastern Connecticut State University. Five different institutions met in October of 1984 to discuss the concept of this conference. A conference had previously existed, the New England Small School Conference, but was discarded after schools had to adapt to the NCAA division organized standards. This meeting also planned for the conference to be basketball only, really becoming a replica of the Big East conference. Jump forward to June of 1985, eight teams are invited to discuss and explore the conference and to see what schools were willing to commit and join.

Three months later, the conference was officially agreed upon moving forward with six schools committed and the founders of the Little Big East being credited to Eastern Connecticut State University, University of Massachusetts Boston, Southeastern Massachusetts University (UMass Dartmouth), Plymouth State College (Plymouth State University), Rhode Island College and University of Southern Maine. In that same month, a constitution was written up for the conference with revisions being suggested. The first officers to be elected for the Little Big East would be the Commissioner (Richard A. Costello, University of Southern Maine) and the Secretary-Treasurer (William Baird, Rhode Island College). Al Bean, from the University of Southern Maine, was selected to be the league’s first publicist. On March 20, 1986, further revisions were made to the constitution by members of the participating schools. Also, the 1986-1987 schedule was formatted and finalized being released to these teams as well. A month later on April 28, the constitution was accepted and the Little Big East was officially now it’s own conference and established. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Little Big East may not be a home name for college basketball fans, but it is an important part of basketball history. It challenged the bigger conferences fighting for smaller schools to be represented and exposed. It’s main goal however is to help these athletes succeed and be recognized for the talent they have. The Little Big East may be small in size, but is big in heart and talent.


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