Michael A. Tranghese is a former collegiate golfer, sports information director and, most notably, the long-term commissioner of one of the most successful college athletic conferences of all-time.
Mr. Tranghese was born on February 2, 1944 in Springfield, Massachusetts to Michael and Josephine (nee DiSantis). He attended Cathedral High School in Springfield and upon graduation in 1961 enrolled at St. Michael’s College (est. 1904) in Colchester, Vermont. While at St. Michael’s he served as a student manager for the basketball team and was a member of the varsity golf team from 1962 to 1965 leading his team to a second place finish in the New England Championship in 1964 — the best placement in the program’s history. He also served as the sports editor for The Michaelman and was the sports publicity assistant for the Purple Knights teams. He was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in September of 1996.
After graduation in 1965, Mike went to work as the Sports Information Director for American International College in Springfield and Providence College. It was at Providence working closely with men’s head basketball coach Dave Gavitt (RIHHoF 1979) that his career as a sports administrator took off.
In 1979 the Big East Conference was formed by Gavitt and the athletic directors of independent schools Providence, St. John’s, Georgetown and Syracuse. Seton Hall, Connecticut, Holy Cross, Rutgers and Boston College were invited to join but Rutgers and Holy Cross declined. Villanova would join a year later and Pittsburgh in 1982. The Big East was formed to compete with major schools and conferences throughout the country and compete they did. A mere six years after formation, the Conference’s high water mark occurred in the 1985 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament when Big East members Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova all appeared in the Final Four. Villanova would go on to defeat Georgetown in the final game and become the national champion.
The Big East experienced some difficulties when the Conference decided to add football to its program. The “football” and “non-football” schools created instability for the Conference and ultimately led to its reorganization. In 1990 Mike Tranghese took over as Commissioner when his mentor, Dave Gavitt left the Conference for duties in the front offices of the Boston Celtics. He steered the Conference through defections of various “football” schools, raids on its members by the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and other difficulties. Through it all, as the first employee of the Big East Conference at its original offices in Providence back in 1979, Tranghese and the Big East prevailed. Respected and recognized as one of the classiest conference commissioners in the country, he was always perceived as fair as he nurtured Gavitt’s baby through basketball glory and managed to negotiate multi-million dollar TV deals with an acute business savvy. The Conference’s annual men’s basketball tournament at New York’s Madison Square Garden is one of the most prestigious among college basketball’s events leading up to the NCAA’s annual “March Madness.”
In 2009, Mike Tranghese retired from the Big East after nearly 30 years – 19 of which were served as Commissioner – with the organization and was succeeded by long-time friend, John Marinatto. He has served as head of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) committee, the annual selection of the NCAA’s top Division I football teams to compete for the national championship and also as head of the Division I NCAA men’s basketball committee and as a member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. More recently he has served as a consultant to the Southeast Conference (SEC) aiding in its attempts to improve the overall quality and appeal of that conference’s basketball program.
Mike and his wife Susan reside in Wakefield, Rhode Island. Rumor has it that his retirement may come at a price as he has never lost the golfing prowess he displayed back in his days at St. Michael’s College. Ready and able to take on all challengers, he may have to give strokes in friendly matches out on the links.
Lawrence C. Reid