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Has Notre Dame dealt the Big East a knockout blow?

Darn.

When Dick Vitale opined on Twitter last Saturday that his sources were telling him Notre Dame was close to accepting an invitation to join the ACC, I had a good belly laugh. There goes crazy uncle Dick, spouting off absurdities even Bigfoot chasers wouldn’t believe. I mean really, why would the ACC allow ND to join if it wasn’t bringing its golden chalice of football? Why would ND leave for that matter, if it had to play five or six crappy ACC teams every year and dilute its mythical national schedule? Why would the other ACC schools accept this shotgun marriage, sharing their hard-earned TV dollars with a pampered step-brat?

Looks like Dickie V isn’t a loon after all. With the announcement Wednesday morning that Notre Dame would join the ACC at a yet-to-be-determined date, Vitale’s prescient tweet became an ominous omen that the already watered-down Big East was about to be given a death sentence. This is not an spur-of-the-moment overreaction, but rather a reading of the signs that have been laid to bear the past year.

There are three key actors in this tragedy: the ACC, Notre Dame and ESPN.

The ACC stuck a few bars of C-4 in the Big East’s foundation last season when it hijacked Syracuse and Pittsburgh. It wasn’t enough to topple the structure, of course, but did put it on stilts. Taking Cuse and Pitt put the other existing members on edge. It became that game of Jenga where it wasn’t about if the tower would fall, but who would take out the block that would send it crashing.

You think the football schools didn’t know this? How many articles have come out of Hartford with UConn all but pleading for the ACC to abduct it? What about Louisville who, aside from Rick Pitino, has been talking for months as if the Big 12 was its biological father?

Enter Notre Dame. With its national following and lucrative brand, the Irish have been lustily sought by the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC for years now only to be rebuffed time and time again. Until now that is. None but a few high ranking officials in South Bend know what changed, but it is only logical to assume the instability of the Big East, coupled with the geographical nightmare that was to play out in the upcoming years, had a lot to do with it. Notre Dame’s responsibility is to look after itself, and they finally felt financially and athletically, the ACC would do a better job. No more worrying about potential collapses. No more reading about instability. No more trips to SMU.

Yet, my skeptical nature tells me there had to be something else.

Da-da-dum…da-da-dum.

ESPN began its negotiations with the Big East for the upcoming TV contract last week, an exclusive 60-day period to hash something out. While it is football that attracts prime dollars, the strength of basketball helped to offset some of the deficiencies in Big East pigskin. The conference was never going to dethrone the SEC, but adding some cross-country schools like Boise State meant that there was always a possibility to showcase a top-ranked team.

Taking out one of the conference’s biggest assets, even if it didn’t partake in football, swings controls of the negotiations back into ESPN’s favor. ND was one of the remaining foundations of national attention. Now it’s gone. I’m not one to posit that ESPN was behind the destruction of the Big East, but I readily accept that they benefit from it. Giving a few hundred million more to the ACC—DanWetzel has reported that the ACC will be able to seek additional compensation from its ESPN deal—is much cheaper than signing a wobbly conference to a billion dollar deal.

Where does this leave Marquette, though? Without football, it’s not even in the passenger’s seat; it’s in the trunk with wrists and ankles in shackles. I don’t care how loud people scream: Marquette has no control of its athletic destiny right now. The so-called Catholic Conference won’t happen if Georgetown, Villanova and St. John’s aren’t involved. The A-10, a basketball-only conference that has a decent reputation just added Butler and VCU and has yet to indicate any willingness to absorb the Golden Eagles or any other team. No other nationally recognized conference wants Marquette and, face it, the Big East is one football defection from becoming Conference USA II. Heck, I would argue it already is. It’s time to face the music that our time in the national spotlight, in regards to our conference, is about to end.

However, this on its own does not mean that MU will be relegated to irrelevance. It does mean fewer ESPN broadcasts and smaller paydays, two things that have never won a game by themselves. At this point in time, it is crucial that the administration remain committed in its support of basketball, both structurally and financially. A conference aids a quest for success, it does not define it. Marquette benefited greatly from the competition and exposure of the Big East, it is up to the program to maintain that momentum through continued success.

So as disillusioning as today’s news may be, Marquette lives to play another day. Boot camp will start soon, Madness is a month away and Ohio State beckons in two. As I stated last time, treasure the past and savor the present. At this point all MU can do is go out and win as many games as it can each and every season, no matter which jersey is in front of it.

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3 Comments on “Has Notre Dame dealt the Big East a knockout blow?”

  1. Pat Boyer
    September 12, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    We are and can stay more important to the National basketball scene than, Gonzaga, Memphis, UNLV, etc.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Daybreak Doppler: I Understand Now | PocketDoppler.com - September 13, 2012

    […] Paint Touches is wondering Has Notre Dame dealt the Big East a knockout blow? […]

  2. Is the sky falling? | Paint Touches - November 28, 2012

    […] This is from two months ago when Notre Dame bailed. By no means was I original or on the cutting edge with my doom and gloom predictions, it was basically common knowledge. I just post these to highlight my how deep my pessimism runs. […]

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