The move comes nearly a year after the two flagship members of the conference were accepted by the ACC last September. The loss of Notre Dame could have major ramifications for the Big East, as the conference looks to finalize a TV deal in the coming weeks. Notre Dame's exodus from the Big East could also impact the conference's negotiations with the Orange Bowl, as well as its plans to add a 14th member for football.
“Notre Dame has been a valued member of the Big East and we wish them success in the future,” Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “However, Notre Dame's departure does not change our plans … we remain committed to making the Big East stronger than it has ever been.”
Big East bylaws require a departing school to pay a $5 million exit fee and provide a 27-month withdrawal notice before leaving the conference. Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said during a press conference Wednesday night that the school intends to meet its contractual obligations with the Big East. Swarbrick declined to comment specifically on if the school plans to leave the conference before the start of the 2014 season.
“It's in everyone's interest to do it sooner rather than later,” Swarbrick said.
Notre Dame could reach an agreement with the Big East to leave before the 27-month period expires. Last February, West Virginia agreed to pay a $20 million exit fee to leave the conference early for the Big 12. In July, Syracuse and Pittsburgh agreed to pay the Big East a $7.5 million exit fee to leave the conference on July 1, 2013.
In terms of bowl affiliations, the Big East could lose its automatic qualification status into a high-tier bowl game when the BCS contract expires in 2013. In July, the ACC reached a 12-year agreement with the Orange Bowl for a tie-in beginning with the 2014 season. The contract runs through 2025. Swarbrick indicated Wednesday that Notre Dame could be included in a pool, along with the SEC and the Big Ten, to face an ACC opponent in the Orange Bowl. There are no indications that the Big East champion will be included in the pool
“I concluded that our Bowl options would be significantly better in an affiliation with the ACC than they would likely be in an affiliation with the Big East,” Swarbrick said.
Larry Wahl, the vice president of communications for the Orange Bowl, said Wednesday that he was unaware of the developments.
With Notre Dame out of the mix, the Big East may still look to add a 14th school for football. The Big East is set to have 12 members for football for the 2013-14 season. The conference will have six returning members in Connecticut, Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida and Temple. Six additional schools -- Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State and Southern Methodist -- will join the conference next season. Boise State and San Diego State will join as associate members for football-only.
In 2015, Navy is set to join the Big East as an associate member for football. A 14th member for football would split the conference evenly into two seven-team divisions. Here are five possibilities.
- Brigham Young -- The 1984 national champions became the fourth FBS independent on July 1, 2011. An affiliation with the Big East could help BYU rekindle rivalries with Boise State and San Diego State. BYU is in the midst of an eight-year broadcast deal with ESPN for football. The addition of the school would help the Big East immensely in its negotiations for a new TV deal. For basketball, Cougars coach Dave Rose may be in favor of the move. In 1982-1983, Rose played alongside Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler at Houston.“Like most universities, BYU continues to monitor the ever-changing landscape of college athletics, including today's announcement by Notre Dame,” a BYU spokesman said in a statement released Wednesday. “BYU is pleased with its status as an independent football program.”
- Ohio -- The Bobcats are an emerging program in football and basketball. In the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Ohio defeated Michigan and South Florida to earn a spot in the Sweet 16. In St. Louis, the Bobcats were a Walter Offut buzzer-beater away from a shocking upset of North Carolina. In football, Ohio defeated Utah State in the Idaho Bowl last season and already has a win over Penn State this year.
- Villanova -- In 2011, the Wildcats nearly joined the Big East in football before an agreement reportedly hit a snag. Villanova already has a storied history in the conference in basketball and has seen a rivalry intensify with Temple in football over the past four seasons.
- Massachusetts -- The inclusion of UMass could help bolster several rivalries in football, most notably one between the Minutemen and Huskies. In basketball, the school is in close proximity to UConn, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, Temple and Villanova.
- UNLV -- If BYU is added, UNLV could help solidify a division that may include Boise State, San Diego State, SMU, Memphis and Houston in football. In basketball, Las Vegas is a hotbed for recruiting and the summer home for several elite high school tournaments.