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Thursday, March 14, 2013
Big East, Notre Dame agree on exit

By Brett McMurphy and Andy Katz

Notre Dame and the Big East reached an agreement Tuesday allowing the Fighting Irish to leave the league two years early and join the ACC on July 1.

"This decision makes sense for the Big East," commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement after a vote by Big East presidents. "In view of Notre Dame's expressed desire to join the ACC on an earlier timetable, the Big East and Notre Dame were able to arrive at an acceptable resolution."

It was reported earlier Tuesday that Notre Dame and the Big East had negotiated a $2.5 million exit fee for the Irish. However, Notre Dame will not have to pay.

Notre Dame's exit agreement with the Big East required the Fighting Irish to provide 27 months' notice but did not require an exit fee. To allow Notre Dame to leave before 2015, the Big East had sought at least $2.5 million from the Fighting Irish, a source told ESPN last week.

Sports Illustrated reported Monday night, however, that Notre Dame was not required to pay an exit fee because the school agreed not to seek any of the league's exit and entrance fee revenue of about $110 million accumulated in the past few years. A source confirmed those terms to ESPN on Tuesday morning.

Of the Big East's $110 million, about $10 million was given to the departing Catholic 7 schools, with $15 million going to lawyers and consultants, sources said.

That leaves an estimated $85 million to be distributed between the remaining members (Cincinnati, Connecticut and South Florida) and the league's incoming members scheduled to join in 2013 and 2014.

The Fighting Irish announced last year they were joining the ACC in all sports except football.

"From the time of our decision to join the ACC we have stressed our commitment to ensuring that our departure was achieved in a collegial manner," Notre Dame vice president and director of athletics Jack Swarbrick said in the joint statement with the Big East.

The ACC had been planning for months to accommodate Notre Dame if it was able to join for the 2013-14 academic year. The ACC already has formulated an 18-game, 15-team scheduling format for men's basketball.

Notre Dame will play home-and-home ACC games against Boston College and Georgia Tech along with two other ACC schools to be determined. Notre Dame also will play one game each against the league's remaining 10 members.


Previously the Big East unsuccessfully tried to get Notre Dame to schedule future football games against Big East opponents to allow an early exit from the league, sources said.

However, Notre Dame didn't have any future openings, in part because of its football scheduling agreement with the ACC. Notre Dame, which will remain an independent in football, will play five ACC teams annually starting in 2014.

"Our conference, schools and fans are delighted that Notre Dame will join the ACC on July 1, 2013," ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. "The addition of Notre Dame, Pitt and Syracuse, followed by Louisville in 2014, positions us extremely well with an outstanding collection of 15 member institutions."

Notre Dame was prepared to remain in the Big East at least another season. But that all changed with Friday's announcement that the Catholic 7 schools -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova -- would depart July 1 to form their own league.

That league, which will keep the Big East name, is expected to add Butler, Xavier and likely Creighton and begin play this winter.

The Catholic 7 schools issued a statement Tuesday confirming they would keep the Big East name and "details about the expected broadcast media deal, season-ending tournament and additional members of the new conference will be announced in the near future."

Sources told ESPN the new league will receive a multiyear deal with Fox Sports Network worth at least $3 million per school annually.

The Catholic 7 group -- with the Big East name -- also is expected to hold its league tournament next year in Madison Square Garden, sources said.

The current Big East, which must have a new conference name by July 1, will be left with a 10-member league in 2013: Cincinnati, UConn, UCF, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, SMU, Temple and USF.

Last week ESPN reported that America 12 Conference was a favorite for the league's new name and the conference's law firm had purchased several domain names with variations of America 12 in it. However, the league's presidents responded that they do not favor a name with a number in it and are asking its marketing group for a name that highlights the metro nature of the new schools in the league, a source said.

This week's Big East basketball tournament will mark the final league appearances for Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame, which all will move to the ACC next season.

Louisville and Rutgers will remain in the league one more season before moving to the ACC and Big Ten, respectively, in 2014.

The remaining Big East schools are considering new sites for next year's tournament, including Hartford, Conn.; Memphis, Tenn.; Cincinnati and Dallas.