Notre Dame will leave Big East for ACC this fall

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Goodbye Madison Square Garden, Georgetown and Villanova. Hello Greensboro Coliseum, North Carolina and Duke.

A year from now, Notre Dame men’s basketball team will be preparing for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament instead of its annual trip to New York, where the Irish are a frustrating 9-17 all-time in the Big East tournament and have never made it to the league title game. The school announced Tuesday it is leaving the fractured Big East a year sooner than originally anticipated for the ACC in all sports except football and hockey.

The switch was approved in a vote by Big East university presidents in the wake of a split announced last week of the league’s football schools and seven Catholic schools that next season are forming their own basketball-focused conference with the Big East name. The vote means Notre Dame coaches can move forward with scheduling for the 2013-14 school year.

“It removes the uncertainty that made it hard for our coaches and athletes, so we’re very happy to resolve that for them,” athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a telephone interview.

The move means stability for all Notre Dame sports and has some familiarity to Irish fans, with Syracuse and Pittsburgh joining the Irish in moving to the ACC next season and former Big East teams Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech already part of the ACC.

If the Irish had opted to stay in the football-centric league, they would have faced some not-so-familiar opponents in Memphis, Central Florida, Houston, Tulane and SMU, along with returning members Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida, Louisville and Rutgers. Louisville joins the ACC after next season, while Rutgers joins the Big Ten.

If the Irish had chosen to align with the Catholic schools, they would have faced DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence and Villanova. Butler, Xavier and Creighton have been mentioned as potential members.

The ACC will provide some Notre Dame’s non-revenue sports with more challenging opponents. North Carolina’s women’s soccer team has won 21 national championships; four different men’s soccer teams from the conference have won national championships in the past six years; Virginia and Maryland played for the national title in men’s lacrosse in 2011; and Duke has won four national championships in golf in the past 11 years.

“It’s a better situation than the consequence of having the Catholic 7 and the Big East split,” Swarbrick said.

The move comes six months after Notre Dame announced it was opting to join the ACC in all sports except football and hockey. Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said the move made sense for the league.

“The Big East can now focus fully on its future alignment and rebranding efforts,” he said.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford said the league welcomed the early arrival of the Irish, saying the additions of Syracuse and Pitt this year and Louisville next year will make the league’s basketball schedule “brutal, which is a great thing for our league and fans.”

Swarbrick would not comment on whether Notre Dame paid an exit fee or other financial terms of the agreement. He said the decision to join the ACC early evolved over time, saying Notre Dame had been in constant touch with the ACC.

“It was an ongoing conversation,” he said. “These were daily conversations over weeks and months with the ACC, Big East and the Catholic 7.”

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