Notre Dame announced this morning that it is leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports except football, meaning that the absurdities and rampant speculation of conference realignment have started all over again.
Because the Big East requires 27-months’ notice before a school is allowed to leave, the Fighting Irish are in theory stuck in the league until 2015. It remains to be seen, however, if some arrangement can be worked out for a school that boasts what many think is the biggest fanbase in collegiate athletics.
Notre Dame is the fourth program to announce a departure from the Big East in the past two years, following in the footsteps of West Virginia (Big 12), Syracuse and Pittsburgh (both likewise to the ACC); while the latter two will make their moves in 2013, the Mountaineers have already made the switch.
Temple, however, is already in to fill the void left by WVU, leaving Big East football at the same number of team — eight — that it has had since the ACC finished its last swoop on the conference in 2005.
Most talk on the biggest repercussions of conference realignment have been about basketball — and the implications in Notre Dame’s move could be huge for the Blue and Gray, depending on whether or not Georgetown has, and takes advantage of, an emerging opening.
When the Irish make their move to the ACC, it will find itself with an odd number of 15 teams in its premier sport. It should go without saying that that total is unlikely to stay as is. The question, then, is who the 16th team will be.
But wait, you might ask, won’t the ACC be left with an even 14 teams in football when Pitt and that school in upstate New York join? So wouldn’t that seem to necessitate the addition of a school for basketball that doesn’t play FBS football? And isn’t Georgetown just such a school?
Geographically, Georgetown fits in perfectly with the schools of the Atlantic Coast, though there may be some concern about overlap with Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech, meaning the Hoyas wouldn’t add much in terms of market. Villanova or St. John’s have more to offer in that department.
And if you did in fact think all that, and I wasn’t merely giving you the unwarranted benefit of the doubt, then you might just be right on.
Everyone else is jumping ship, and recent events indicate that the Big East is only going to continue to go downhill from here, with Rutgers, UConn, Villanova, Louisville and Cincinnati just a few of the teams that have been rumored to be interested in moves to the ACC, Big 12 and elsewhere over the course of 2012.
Granted, the Fighting Irish are not a basketball powerhouse of Syracuse’s caliber, so this isn’t a death sentence for the Big East. But Notre Dame is another upper-echelon team that consistently ends the season (at least in recent years with Luke Harangodies 1.0 and 2.0) in the top-third of the standings. They’re also a huge media draw and brand whose loss does reduce the Big East’s prestige and revenue.
Yes, I realize that we’ve been in the Big East since its inception in 1979, and that founding status, our history in the conference and idealistic notions of loyalty must be taken into account. But moving to the ACC — and thus being able to continue our biggest rivalry in a league that is eclipsing the Big East as a basketball power center — is a conversation that has to be on the table.
Don’t let us do all the talking, now: what do you guys think about this issue? Let us know in the comments.