Commish: Big East viable without ND

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said his league remains "the nation's best" basketball conference and dismissed talk of the league's demise.

"Is the Big East dead? That's utter nonsense," Aresco said. "You always have a perception issue to deal with and that's why we were out there, vigorously talking about what our conference is. We're not looking back, we're looking forward."

Aresco said because Notre Dame's exit was somewhat expected, it lessened the blow of Wednesday's announcement. The commissioner, speaking before Saturday's Louisville-North Carolina game, focused on what the league has, not what it lost. He said the Irish's departure will have minimal impact on basketball.

"Nobody's going to argue that we're not the strongest basketball conference in the country," Aresco said.

"There's no arguing we're a better football league than we were when we were eight teams. ... We liked having Notre Dame and having them at Madison Square Garden. ... but I'm just looking ahead."

Notre Dame is joining the Atlantic Coast Conference to compete in every sport but football. It's the third Big East school to leave for the ACC; Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced they were leaving earlier this year.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse competed in Big East football while Notre Dame remained independent -- and will continue to do so in the ACC. The league is offsetting those departures by adding Temple, Boise State, Memphis, Southern Methodist, Houston, San Diego State, Central Florida and Navy.

Boise State, San Diego State and Navy will be football-only members.

The Big East will feature two six-team divisions and its first championship game, indications of the league's strength, Aresco said. The commissioner is also confident that negotiations with ESPN for a new television contract would increase exposure and revenue.

"We're going to be fine," said Aresco, who didn't specify financial figures being discussed in the new deal. "We have a very bright future and vast potential. ... We have a ratings-proven product in basketball, a ratings-proven product in football."

As proof, he cited Midwest schools such as Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, and Northeast members Georgetown and St. John's. While women's basketball loses Notre Dame, a Final Four participant the past two seasons, Aresco expected minimal impact.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.