Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Notre Dame's Move to ACC Drives Stake Into Big East

Notre Dame's basketball team, along with all sports except for football, is the newest member of the ACC. (

The Notre Dame football program has yet to hear an offer sweet enough to lure it away from it's Independent status, which is not a surprise. That move could still be years away. But for all other sports, and basketball most importantly, the Irish are the newest members of the growing juggernaut that is the ACC.

ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported Wednesday morning that Notre Dame will join the ACC in all sports except for football. It is still unclear when that will be. The Big East has a 27-month exit rule, but the last three schools to leave the conference West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse have all left early.

For basketball fans, the Big East Conference Tournament is one of the biggest events of the season. The brutal road of ranked teams facing off as early as quarterfinal games in Madison Square Garden made for wildly entertaining basketball. Enjoy this year's tournament, because after this year, it won't be the same.

Conference realignment has been mainly dictated by football, which makes sense seeing as it is the largest revenue sport. So while Syracuse and Pitt are both basketball schools (West Virginia has been successful in both), the moves to the ACC and Big 12 was also because of football.

But now a school has made a move to a new conference without its football team, for now, and there lies the potential death of the Big East.

Don't get me wrong, Notre Dame's decision was also about football. Part of the agreement to move to the ACC is that the football team, while still an Independent, must schedule five ACC opponents every year.

Notre Dame saw the decline of their conference in basketball as well, and bolted before it became worse. While the football team is still involved with the school's move to the ACC, the team itself is staying still. Most conference realignment moves happen because of football, but Notre Dame's acceptance into the ACC may motivate teams without football programs to also make a switch.

Who is to say teams like Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova who do not have FBS football teams won't do the same? UCONN has also expressed an interest in leaving the Big East, which would make them the fifth team to do so in the last two years. Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova can't be blamed for also heading to greener basketball pastures.

In an uneasy time for conferences, the Big East is by far the most vulnerable and Notre Dame's departure puts it on even shakier ground. As a school, Notre Dame has the most tradition and national recognition in the Big East, even without football. The biggest basketball conference in the country may be on the verge of extinction.

Notre Dame's departure will be possibly the most painful to the Big East because it reopened the door for schools without football to follow. Football aside, Notre Dame didn't trust a future in the Big East, and other schools in the conference probably feel the same way. It's only a matter of time before they too seek out opportunities elsewhere.

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