MIAMI -- Let history record that at 1:30 p.m. yesterday, in a symbolically lavish setting in Coral Gables, the University of Miami shed its independence and made the Big East just a little bit bigger.
After a briefing by Miami athletic director Sam Jankovich and a quick recommendation by president Edward T. Foote II, the school's board of trustees voted unanimously and without debate to join the nine-school Big East Conference.
Miami football temporarily will remain independent until the conference decides what it wants to do with its four major football schools, Miami included. Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said the conference would probably wait about a year before deciding its football future. Miami could probably not play a conference football schedule for about five years anyway, Jankovich said, because of an already full schedule.
The biggest plus for Miami is that it will begin playing basketball in the conference by the 1991-1992 season (Jankovich said altering that schedule won't be a problem). Miami basically will go status quo in baseball, with an equal number of home games, more of which will be against Big East schools.
"My father told me a long time ago that you are only as good as the people you associate with," Jankovich said. "By getting into a relationship with the Big East, we are getting together with people who care and do things the right way."
A Miami basketball program that lost nearly $250,000 last year will now join one of the nation's best (read: most lucrative) basketball conferences. Jankovich predicted that Big East fever will mean more season-ticket sales. He said he expects Miami to break even this year in basketball, even though it won't be in the conference this season, and then make about $600,000 in 1991-92, the first season the Hurricanes will share Big East revenue.
Last year, the nine-team Big East made $15 million. Based on television and NCAA Tournament appearances, the worst basketball team (Boston College) took in about $500,000 and the best (Georgetown) about $1.5 million.
Jankovich, who four years ago briefly contemplated putting Miami in the decidely weaker Sun Belt Conference, said Miami season-ticket sales should jump from the current 2,300 to 3,200 in 1991 and to 5,000 the next year. And Miami basketball coach Leonard Hamilton said Jankovich's projection is probably an underestimate.
"To say I am overwhelmed would be an understatement," Hamilton said. "If you had told me six months ago that I would be Miami's head basketball coach and in the Big East, I would have passed out."
Passed out cigars, probably. Miami, mired in basketball mediocrity since the program's resurrection in 1984, will benefit primarily from the Big East's television contracts.