Notre Dame

Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins, right, is congratulated by Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford during a news conference at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. Notre Dame will play five football games annually against ACC schools, but will be a full member in all other sports. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

NEW YORK — Just when it seemed the Big East had plugged all its holes, Notre Dame has created another.

The Fighting Irish will move to the Atlantic Coast Conference with a similar arrangement to the one they had with the Big East: all sports except football.

“This is a resilient conference,” Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“Our football conference is stronger than ever. We lose Notre Dame in basketball but we remain top to bottom the strongest basketball conference in the country.”

Notre Dame becomes the fourth school to leave the Big East in the last year. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are set to depart for the ACC in 2013 and West Virginia jumped to the Big 12 this year.

The latest defection comes less than a month after the Big East made a big splash by hiring Aresco, the former CBS executive, as its new commissioner, and with the conference in the early stages of negotiating a vital new television contract.

Aresco said the loss of Notre Dame does not change the Big East’s plans.

“Our television reach remains the same,” he said. “Our television situation remains the same. We valued Notre Dame as a member in basketball and Olympic sports.

“But we’re not looking backward, we’re looking forward.”

The Big East is set to become a 12-team, four-time zone football conference, starting next season with the addition of six schools, including Boise State and San Diego State as football-only members.

Memphis, Houston, Central Florida and SMU are set to join for all sports. Temple joined this year on short notice to replace West Virginia.

St. John’s, Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, DePaul, Seton Hall and Providence compete in the Big East but not in football.

Big East bylaws require Notre Dame pay a $5 million withdrawal fee and give the conference 27 months’ notice before leaving, though the conference did agree to let Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia exit early for a price.

Notre Dame’s move to the ACC only affects Big East football tangentially. The Fighting Irish have regularly played Big East members in recent years, but those games are unlikely to continue with Notre Dame locked into five games against ACC opponents.

Still, the conference’s identity and signature sport — men’s basketball — have been damaged by the recent departures, and losing Notre Dame doesn’t help.

In Syracuse, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, the Big East has lost four tournament regulars. Even with them, the Big 12 had the best conference RPI last season. The Big East was second and the ACC was not far behind in third.

The Big East is hoping the additions of Memphis and Temple offset those basketball losses.

“Our basketball means a lot in any television negotiations,” Aresco said.

Notre Dame joined the Big East in 1995 and since has reached the men’s NCAA basketball tournament eight times.

Football, however, has driven the value of the recent conference media deals. Last week, the Big 12 completed a contract worth $2.6 billion over 13 years. The ACC’s latest deal will pay each of its members about $17 million per year through 2027. That will be reworked with the addition of Notre Dame.

The Big East is hoping to land a deal at least in the ballpark of those, and it’s hard to quantify exactly what not having Notre Dame will cost the conference.

But for a conference that is working hard to maintain national relevance and create stability, having Notre Dame leave is far from ideal.

The Big East is currently in an exclusive 60-day negotiating period with ESPN. If the Big East can’t reach a deal with ESPN, the conference will hit the open market, where it hopes to find more suitors, such as NBC and Fox.

“We’ve had some preliminary conversations (with ESPN) and we’re going to have much more substantive discussions very soon,” Aresco said. “It is early but we’re gearing up and getting ready.”

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