Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said Thursday there have been no discussions yet about letting Notre Dame out of the league to join the ACC before the required 27-month waiting period.
"They may make that request and then we'd have to negotiate with them because they are required to stay for two more seasons. If they do, we'll engage them in a negotiation. I can't tell you much more than that," Aresco said Thursday before the Rutgers-South Florida football game, his first public comments since Notre Dame took all sports but football to the ACC.
Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia all were able to negotiate early departures from the Big East when they decided to make moves to different conferences. West Virginia paid $20 million to go to the Big 12; Pitt and Syracuse each will pay $7.5 million to join the ACC in 2013.
"I really don't want to comment much on that," Aresco said when asked about the possibility of letting Notre Dame out early. "There is a precedent for that. We'll maintain a good relationship with Notre Dame. We've been very magnanimous. That's the way we should be. We wish Notre Dame well. We'll talk to them. We may be able to figure something out. We may not. We just don't know yet."
Though Notre Dame was not a football-playing member of the Big East, losing the Irish is yet another blow in a string of difficult departures going back to last September. In that time, the league has lost five schools -- including TCU, which never played a game as a Big East member.
That has added to the perception that the Big East is a league on the verge of falling apart. Aresco's response to those assertions?
"Complete nonsense," he said. "First of all. I've read some of the articles. Some have been fair, others haven't been fair. We have a great basketball conference. Notre Dame -- we enjoy having the relationship -- but when you have Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, and UConn and Georgetown and Villanova and an up-and-coming St. John's, the possibility of DePaul doing well in Chicago, and adding Memphis and Temple, two strong programs. ... When you have all that, how can anybody argue we aren't top to bottom the best basketball conference in the country? We're right up there.
"When you lose a team, there's always some comment and that's fine. We know we have a strong future, and we also know we've reconstituted our football and we've added some outstanding teams. The old Big East in football was a very good conference, but it didn't have a Boise, which has a national appeal, it didn't have range, it didn't have the Texas schools. We have a bright outlook, and I'm going to make that point. What we don't want to do is let a narrative take over that might simply be inaccurate. It is simply inaccurate."
Given the latest move, though, Aresco believes the landscape has perhaps solidified itself, and a period of stability may take hold. That would benefit no other conference more than the Big East as it tries to rebuild itself and its image again.
"It clarifies the situation. Our sense is this might be it for a while," he said. "There might be stability for a while. The ACC has made a statement they don't want to expand. The Big 12 has steadfastly said they want to stay at 10. It looks like there might be a period of relative calm. What we want to do is make our schools happy to be in the Big East, proud of the Big East. We want to instill pride. That's key. That's why I've been so adamant about the fact that we have a great story to tell. What we need to do, any school that left we want to have the kind of conference where they wish they were back in. If we do have that period of stability, we can accomplish some terrific things."