Butler coach is using the Big East as a great marketing tool

Tradition-rich league has appeal across the nation

Butler men's basketball coach LaVall Jordan speaks to a group at Hinkle Fieldhouse during his introductory press conference in June in Indianapolis. (By Tom Davis of The News-Sentinel)

INDIANAPOLIS – For three years of his career as a college basketball coach, LaVall Jordan had to sell basketball recruits on living in Iowa City, so you can forgive him if he seems a bit giddy about now getting to deliver that same pitch on behalf of not just his alma mater, not just a major metropolitan market (Indianapolis), but also for a strong, basketball-centric league.

Jordan took over as the head coach at Butler University this past summer and with that came the opportunity to sell student-athletes on competing in the Big East Conference.

Actually, to say that he is having to “sell” kids on the notion of playing for the Bulldogs isn’t entirely accurate.

“The markets are great,” Jordan told The News-Sentinel recently of the conference, “the coaching is at an extremely high level, and there is an attraction (for kids). It’s not something where you are having to oversell it.”

The Bulldogs currently have four scholarships available for incoming recruits in the class of 2018 and what Jordan is discovering is that the Butler brand, as well as the Big East, resonates nationally. That is a positive in that players all over the country are familiar with the Butler brand, as well as the Big East, but that also means that the Bulldog coaches could be pursuing a recruit in California one day, Massachusetts the next, and anywhere in between the next.

“Everybody knows the teams in the league,” Jordan said. “They know the coaches and the players. Kids get excited about the Big East and parents, too.

“The great thing is, people know where Butler is. The national recognition is different than 20 years ago when I was playing here.”

The current Bulldog roster consists of players from seven states, as well as Canada. Butler players are from big cities such as Cincinnati, Louisville, metropolitan Washington, D.C., Indianapolis and Fort Lauderdale, but also smaller burgs such as Anderson and Winder, Georgia.

Jordan said there is a common theme in recruiting players, regardless of where they are from.

“In recruiting,” Jordan explained, “if you have a unique connection or some sort of relationship, then it is worth the investment of time to try and see where it will lead.

“That is what you are always trying to find.”

Jordan spoke of his emphasizing what Butler does possess, which is a highly-successful basketball program at the highest level of college basketball, as well as a challenging university academically, great facilities, a beautiful campus in a metropolitan area, and oh, for good measure, the Big East, once again.

“There is huge interest,” Jordan said of what he has learned over the summer, “it is a basketball league. Kids get excited about that.

“With Villanova winning the national championship (in 2016), us making the Sweet 16 (this spring), Xavier was in the Elite 8 last year, and us making a run to national championship games… seven teams in the NCAA Tournament last season, if you are a basketball guy or a basketball fan, there is an excitement about the league.”

Most college conferences are based in smaller, college towns. Though they have their passionate followings, there is a something more “professional” about the Big East.

The teams will fly into major metropolitan cities (Philadelphia, Providence, New York, Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, Chicago, and Cincinnati) and they’ll often get the opportunity to play in NBA arenas, including the league tournament at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.

“I’m excited,” Jordan said. “I haven’t been to a lot of the venues in the Big East. With Madison Square Garden and the Big East Tournament, it doesn’t get better than that.”

Though Butler does recruit across the nation, the league does have a heavy presence in the Midwest with five teams in Ohio (Xavier), Indiana (Butler), Illinois (DePaul), Wisconsin (Marquette) and Nebraska (Creighton), so it can also appeal to players right in Butler’s back yard.

“It’s unique,” Jordan said, “being in the Midwest, because there are teams on this side (of the country) that aren’t in the East. But I think there is the attraction (for recruits), because they’re basketball fans. There is huge respect for the tradition of the Big East because of the schools that have been in it for a long time. It’s fun to go out and promote the league.”

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.