Big East hoops hurt by Irish defection

With the loss of Notre Dame, Big East basketball has been raided in the name of football. (Joe Raymond/AP Photo)

Why not just move the ACC Tournament to Madison Square Garden and be done with it? In the holy name of football money, Big East basketball has been raided again. Likely starting in the 2013-14 season, the league will have quite a different look. And not a particularly good one.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Notre Dame (mostly so it can schedule five football games each year with ACC teams) will be joining Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the ACC. (The Notre Dame Conference stays intact for football.) No doubt, some major donor is about to write the exit check that will get ND out of the Big East by the start of the 2013-14 school year.

So, let’s assume ND will be in the ACC next year. What has gone down here? Let us review.

Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and West Virginia (Big 12) are or will be gone from the Big East. Temple, Memphis, Houston, SMU and Central Florida will be taking their places. That is four really good basketball schools vs. two. Not a great trade.

Assuming nothing changes between now and next August (a really bad assumption), the ACC will have 15 schools for basketball while the Big East will have 17. The ACC might be happy with 14 for football or it might be interested in 16. If so, the likely targets are Big East members Louisville, Cincinnati, Rutgers and Connecticut and, just to spice this up if Villanova ever decides to try FBS football, VU and the Philadelphia market could be on an ACC wish list.

If you make a list of the 10 best Big East basketball schools of the 2000s, it would include the four defectors, along with Villanova, Marquette, Georgetown, Connecticut, Louisville and Cincinnati. Let’s say one or two of the football Big East schools are next to leave. This can’t be good news for new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco.

Neither the fans nor the players are ever consulted about any of this because it’s not about the fans or the players. It’s about TV contracts and football money, with basketball somewhere far down the list.

The Big East was a brilliant concept, a perfect marriage of TV and major Northeast markets when ESPN was in its infancy and Monday night games from the Carrier Dome or Boston Garden or the Spectrum or the Hartford Civic Center were events not to be missed. You felt like you were in the gym watching those games on TV. You felt part of something. You could see the sweat and feel the passion.

It all worked perfectly for nearly 3 decades. Then, the universities/corporations perfected ways of marketing their amateur players to the highest bidder, without, of course, ever sharing any of that money with the “student-athlete.” Big East basketball, as we knew it, is just one casualty.

Look, any league with Louisville, Memphis, Cincinnati, Marquette, Villanova, Georgetown, Temple and Connecticut is still a really good league, even with Houston, SMU, Central Florida, South Florida, Seton Hall, St. John’s, De Paul, Providence and Rutgers mostly anchoring it down.

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 first schools you think of when you think Big East basketball.

The Big East without Syracuse basketball, however, is not the Big East, no matter what anybody tries to tell you. The Carrier Dome was the most important venue in the history of the league, just shrieking big time when it was jammed. Maybe, the ACC will do the new Big East a favor and leave MSG to the diminished league and just hold its legendary tournament at the Dome. It is the least those corporate raiders can do.