The Big East, which built its name on basketball, now is in the football business with eight Eastern teams that for 30 years struggled to find a common identity.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us, an awful lot of work ahead of us," commissioner Mike Tranghese said at the birth of the Big East football league on Tuesday."But for people who have pursued the spirit of Eastern football for 30 years, it's a great day."

Major and minor bowls already have made informal approaches, and every bowl official in the country got an express letter Tuesday telling them of the new conference, Tranghese said.

"If we want a bowl tie in 1991, we probably will have one," he predicted.

But only the majors need apply. The Big East is "not about to reach agreement to play in the Bill Smith Bowl," he said.

To enforce a long-term commitment to the league, Tranghese said there would be an undisclosed penalty for withdrawals. A few officials suggested it was akin to the basketball penalty of more than $1 million.

Syracuse, Boston College, Miami of Florida and Pittsburgh - all Big East Conference basketball members - will play Rutgers, Temple, West Virginia and Virginia Tech beginning this fall in the new football conference.

Pitt will play West Virginia in the kickoff game Aug. 31 in Morgantown, W.Va.

Tranghese promised a conference champion this year - he's just not sure how yet because Virginia Tech will only play one conference game this year and Miami only two. All have agreed to play a minimum of five conference games a year by 1995.

"The formation of a Big East football conference will create a whole new order for Eastern football," Pittsburgh coach Paul Hackett said.