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Notre Dame to leave Big East, join ACC

Irish will remain a football independent but add an ACC slant to schedule
09/12/2012 11:28 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro
The Fighting Irish are headed to the ACC.

The University of Notre Dame announced Wednesday that they have accepted an invitation to join the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports except football and hockey, effective as soon as they can settle their exit with the current home of their Olympic sports, the Big East Conference.

Currently, the Big East requires 27 months’ notice for programs to leave, which would initially prevent Notre Dame from being eligible to join the ACC until January 2015. However, West Virginia, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh – all of whom announced intention to leave the Big East last September – were able to circumvent that requirement by paying a larger sum than the conference’s standard $5 million exit fee; the Mountaineers paid a reported $20 million to join the Big 12 this academic year, while Pitt and Syracuse will pay a $7.5 million exit fee to join the ACC effective July 1, 2013.

When they do join the ACC, Notre Dame will remain an FBS independent in football, but that status comes with the caveat that they will play five games against ACC opponents every year. The ACC does not sponsor men's ice hockey, so it is presumed that the school will still go through with its already-planned move to Hockey East in that sport as well.

"We have monitored the changing conference landscape for many months and have concluded that moving to the ACC is the best course of action for us," said Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame vice president and director of athletics, in a statement released by the ACC. "We are able to maintain our historic independence in football, join in the ACC's non-BCS bowl package, and provide a new and extremely competitive home for our other sports."

The move strikes another blow for what is already considered by many insiders as the weakest of the “power conferences,” as Notre Dame is now the fifth program to bolt from the Big East in the last 12 months; West Virginia, Syracuse, and Pitt all defected last September, and just a few weeks later, Texas Christian University – which in 2010 had accepted an invite to become a full Big East member in 2012-13 – spurned that invite to join the Mountaineers in the Big 12 instead.

In addition, Loyola (MD) University, which was an associate member of the conference in women’s lacrosse, announced a few weeks ago that it would join the Patriot League in all sports after this academic year.

Should Notre Dame join Pitt and Syracuse and exit the Big East after this year, the conference would stand at 17 full members, 10 of which play FBS football, for the 2012-13 academic year. In addition to its 12 holdovers, the Big East has added Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, Southern Methodist, and Temple as full members effective July 1, 2013.

Temple joined in football only this fall to immediately replace West Virginia and keep the football conference at eight members, and the Big East will expand to 12 in that sport in 2013 by adding its four other pending full members and bringing in Boise State and San Diego State as associate members to offset the losses of Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

Navy, which is currently an FBS independent, will also join the Big East in football only in 2015.

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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