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Move to ACC might be next year for Notre Dame

Mar 6, 2013, 7:50 PM EDT

Jack Swarbrick

As the Big East conference continues to twist and turn, it appears that Notre Dame’s exit to the ACC might come sooner than expected. Two reports this week fill in some of the rather interesting blanks for Notre Dame fans wondering how athletic director Jack Swarbrick will maneuver his way through another set of murky waters.

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reports that the ACC would accept Notre Dame as early as this summer, paving the way for all sports except for football to become full conference members. His report cites the fate of the Big East’s seven Catholic schools as the lynchpin for the deal.

This from McMurphy:

Notre Dame intended to stay in the Big East through the 2013-14 season as long as the league’s seven Catholic basketball schools remained. But those schools — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova — are expected to announce in the coming days they are leaving the Big East to begin their own league on July 1.

Notre Dame officials have indicated previously that the Irish would seek an earlier exit from the Big East if the Catholic 7 schools departed before 2014. Notre Dame announced last year it was joining the ACC in all sports, except football.

ACC commissioner John Swofford and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick have said there wasn’t a firm deadline in which Notre Dame would have to inform the ACC of its intention to join in 2013.

Writing for USA Today, Mark Blaudschun added some news that the framework is in place for the Catholic 7 to depart the Big East this summer.

After a weekend of talks and negotiations, the Big East Conference has put together a framework of an agreement allowing member schools known as the Catholic 7 to break away from the Big East by July and take the “Big East” name, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter was not to be discussed publicly.

The person said an agreement on the split could be announced Thursday and added that the Big East football schools expect to have a new conference name as well as a new site for the conference basketball tournament, which has been anchored in New York’s Madison Square Garden since 1983.

How Notre Dame extracts itself from the Big East, and whether or not it continues its relationship with the Catholic 7 still seems up in the air. Over the weekend, Swarbrick spoke with media and took a “wait and see” approach when discussing his stance on the Irish’s fate next year.

“We’re trying to assess it,” Swarbrick said. “We’re a little like you are right now. We’re trying to get information and figure it out. One of the challenges right now is I’m not even sure who I talk to.

“If this splits into two conferences, and one of the things they negotiate over is the Big East name, who has the Big East name? Who has the Notre Dame affiliation? Those are the very fundamental things that somebody has to figure out. The challenge for us is how long can we wait for people to figure that out?”

One thing that seems certain is that any supposed early exit fee doesn’t seem to be something Swarbrick is worried about. While McMurphy’s report mentions an exit fee without 27 months notice, Swarbrick seems to have already figured that out months ago.

“We don’t owe any withdrawal fee. Never have,” Swarbrick said in a Blue & Gold article three months ago. “It’s not in dispute. Never has been. The nature of that separate agreement provides that we don’t. It’s a different dynamic with us. We’re not trying to negotiate a withdrawal fee. There isn’t one.” 

With that sorted out, it seems that it’s just a matter of when the complete break-up of the Big East takes place. From there, we’ll know if Notre Dame starts next school year playing in the ACC, a solution that most at the school would happily accept.

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