The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men's basketball program is reportedly leaving the Big East Conference to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, ESPN's Brent McMurphy reported Wednesday morning. The ACC confirmed its acceptance of Notre Dame shortly after. The move is similar to what the Syracuse Orange and Pittsburgh Panthers decided to do last season, however, the Irish will retain its independence in football and will join the ACC as soon as it exits the Big East.
In its transition from the Big East to the ACC, the Notre Dame football program has agreed to play five ACC games per season. Currently, the ACC has 12 football-playing members and that number will increase to 14 when SU and Pitt join in June of 2013. Meanwhile, in men's basketball that number will jump to 15 when Notre Dame officially joins.
For the Big East, this could be a huge blow. Not only will this move take away another strong men's basketball program, a sport the league is most notable for, but it also could lead to the departure of another top-notch school -- already, Connecticut Huskies fans are already talking about it.
As it stands, men's basketball, which plays its conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, will be left with a 17-team field consisting of:
- UConn (football member)
- Cincinnati Bearcats (football member)
- DePaul Blue Demons
- Georgetown Hoyas
- Louisville Cardinals (football member)
- Marquette Golden Eagles
- Providence Friars
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights (football member)
- St. John's Red Storm
- Seton Hall Pirates
- South Florida Bulls (football member)
- Villanova Wildcats
- Temple Owls (in 2013 and football member)
- Houston Cougars (in 2013 and football member)
- SMU Mustangs (in 2013 and football member)
- Central Florida Knights (in 2013 and football member)
- Memphis Tigers (in 2013 and football member)
Now, Norte Dame's move to the ACC was clearly football related, however, for those Big East schools -- UConn, Louisville, Cincinnati or South Florida -- that have a football program and don't like the direction of men's basketball this could be the last straw.
If the ACC is looking to expand its men's basketball membership to 16 and take on another football program, one of those four programs would probably be at the top of the list. If they decided to bolt to the ACC, then the Big East will take another big hit and its leverage to negotiate a new very lucrative television deal would diminish, again.
In the end, Notre Dame's move to the ACC may not be the end of the Big East, but it will continue to add to its frustrations. How much more of this conference realignment can this league take? I guess, we're about to find out.
For more on the Big East, visit the SB Nation blog Big East Coast Bias.