SBD/September 13, 2012/Colleges

Notre Dame Goes To ACC: Departure Renews Questions About Big East's Future

Aresco said the Big East still has "the strongest group of basketball schools"
With Notre Dame leaving the Big East for the ACC and UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun announcing his retirement today, the "future credibility of the ... league is tenuous,” according to Eric Prisbell of USA TODAY. The league that “gave birth to epic rivalries and coaching narratives in the 1980s … is not yet a shell of its former self.” But college sports “appears to be moving toward mega-conferences, and the Big East’s place in that landscape is uncertain.” Noting that the Big East is “unstable,” ESPN's Jay Bilas said that the conference “could continue to be a competitive league -- much like the Atlantic 10 in some ways -- but its influence will be diminished.” Bilas noted that the Big East “'won’t have a seat at the table’ with the increasingly expanding BCS football dominant conferences.” Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco yesterday “defended the power of his basketball league” despite the departure of West Virginia for the Big 12 this year and the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to the ACC. Aresco said, "We have the strongest group of basketball schools in the country. That does not change" (USA TODAY, 9/13). Former ACC Commissioner and former Notre Dame AD Gene Corrigan said, "I do feel bad for the Big East, but most everyone I know there is gone now. I don’t recognize that conference anymore” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/13). CBSSPORTS.com’s Gary Parrish wrote under the header, “A Tough Nine-Year Stretch Has Made The Big East Unrecognizable” (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/12).

ANOTHER BIG BLOW: ESPN.com’s Andrea Adelson wrote the departure of Notre Dame is a “big blow once again to the national perception of the Big East.” It is also a “big blow to its other sports as well” (ESPN.com, 9/12). In Houston, Jerome Solomon wrote the Big East "isn’t dead just because Notre Dame has bailed on the league, but the conference takes another significant hit that makes it less attractive to television networks" (CHRON.com, 9/12). ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil wrote while other conferences continue "to get stronger, the Big East merely gets more muddled, forced to nickel and dime new members in the hopes of closing the gaping holes left by the ones that are leaving.” The Big East is the Big East “in name only, with a brand teetering toward generic” (ESPN.com, 9/12). In Philadelphia, Dick Jerardi writes, “I could actually handle the Big East without Notre Dame and West Virginia. I could even deal with losing Pittsburgh, a very good program the last decade, but still not one of the schools you think of when you think Big East.” However, the Big East without Syracuse “is not the Big East, no matter what anybody tries to tell you” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 9/13). SI.com’s Andy Staples wrote that by recruiting Notre Dame, ACC Commissioner John Swofford has “essentially plunged the knife" into the Big East's heart (SI.com, 9/12).

TV TALK
: In Hartford, Paul Doyle notes the Big East “began a 60-day exclusive negotiating period with ESPN on Sept. 1,” but the loss of Notre Dame “can’t be ignored, even if the Irish weren’t part of the Big East’s football package.” LHB Sports Entertainment & Media President & CEO Lee Berke said, “You want to project stability. Any time a school leaves, it harms that. But at least it’s not a football school in the sense that they weren’t providing football programming for the Big East” (HARTFORD COURANT, 9/13). ESPN's Darren Rovell noted the “big cost” to the Big East will be with the TV contract "that they’re currently negotiating” with ESPN. Rovell: “I know that Mike Aresco wants to say that Notre Dame leaving doesn’t really hurt the Big East, but it certainly does” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 9/12).

GLASS HALF FULL
: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote yesterday was “a good day for the Big East.” Wetzel: “Losing Notre Dame in basketball and other sports isn’t a plus. And yes, it will likely lower the amount of money the Big East can demand in its current television negotiations, but only a little.” The ACC “clearly stated it has no interest in bringing in a 16th member,” which “ends the threat of the conference raiding the Big East again” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/12). SPORTING NEWS’ Mike DeCourcy wrote Notre Dame’s move “does not kill the Big East.” There will be “enough significant teams for the Big East to succeed” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 9/12).

SPLIT SCREEN? In Philadelphia, Mike Jensen asks, “Will Big East schools that don’t play football decide this is the tipping point that causes them to go their own way?" Jensen: "Maybe, but the guess is that it is one step short of such a tipping point." Losing UConn or Louisville in addition to Notre Dame "could cause the Big East to split apart." But, "again, this move wasn’t a surprise” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/13).
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