The Big East Conference has endured much change in the recent past. West Virginia announced their intent to depart for the Big 12 Conference and paid more to leave earlier than the required 27-month departure period.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse followed with their notifications that they will both become members of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and, as West Virginia set precedent, paid more to leave before 27 months have been accumulated.
Texas-Christian University (TCU), which had agreed to join the Big East Conference in all sports for this current season changed their mind and took their upstart program to the Big 12, joining the Mountaineers of whom they would have played if they both had remained members of the Big East.
Without these four schools, the Big East Conference still functions as a strong men's basketball conference, with the likes of UConn, Georgetown, Marquette, Louisville, and Notre Dame, as well as progressive programs in St. John's and Providence.
Then came today and these words from recently appointed Big East Conference Commissioner, Mike Aresco: "The University of the Notre Dame has informed us that it is joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports other than football."
Three nationally-recognized and respected men's basketball programs in Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and now Notre Dame will soon all come under the new umbrella of the ACC. Rivalries of the Big East will be in the history books, but no longer on the court. Notre Dame and Syracuse nail-biters in the final minutes of the second half will now bring promotion for the ACC, instead of the Big East.
Added to what Notre Dame will take away from the Big East as far as men's basketball, the football program, though remaining independent, will have a bigger commitment to the ACC than any commitment it has had with the Big East. Notre Dame will allegedly play five games per season against teams in the ACC. The Fighting Irish will be spending almost half of their season facing the ACC, which is not and has not been the case with Big East football. This appears to be the most loyal the independent Notre Dame football program has even been to a conference they are not in.
No matter who Notre Dame has on their schedule from the ACC, one rivalry is only aided by the move. The Pittsburgh Panthers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, whatever conference they are in or not in, are no strangers to one another. Since 1909, the teams have preserved their football rivalry with the Fighting Irish having a sizeable lead at 46-20-1.
"Notre Dame has been a valued member of the BIG EAST Conference and we wish them success in the future," Aresco continued. "However, Notre Dame's departure does not change our plans. We have prestigious institutions that are excited to be a part of the BIG EAST. We remain committed to making the BIG EAST stronger than it has even been."
The Big East, which seems more fitting to be called "The Last Big Conference" or even take the name from the conference where they have taken so many teams from and call themselves "Conference USA" since teams will soon span the entire nation, has even more change on the horizon. Boise State and San Diego State will move their football programs to the Big East in 2013. In the same year, Memphis, Central Florida (UCF), Southern Methodist (SMU), and Houston will become members of the Big East in all sports. In 2015, Navy will lower their anchor in the Big East for football only.
What the Big East will look like when all of the dust settles from the feet moving in and moving out is an unknown. What we do know is that this is not the Big East most of us grew up with. We also know that Notre Dame, who has long been a bachelor, may be, while not dating exclusively, committing some of their dance card to the ACC for the not-too-distant future.