Since college basketball programs generate less cash and therefore have less power than their gridiron counterparts, they often must function within the conference framework football has wrought.
Sometimes, that can mean an illogical move to a low-profile league (San Diego State to the Big West) or the death of a 100-year rivalry (Missouri vs. Kansas). In the case of Notre Dame basketball, however, it may actually turn out to be a positive.
While easing concerns about football scheduling as an independent was the main reason Notre Dame shifted every sport but football from the Big East to the ACC on Wednesday, the basketball program may thrive in its new league. The Irish will be playing in what should be the nation's most powerful basketball conference yet will maintain some of the natural recruiting ties they had in the Big East.
To evaluate how the impending move to the ACC will impact Notre Dame basketball, I spoke with Jordan Cornette, ex-Notre Dame forward and current Irish color analyst. Cornette described the buzz the move has already generated, why he thinks it was the right decision and how the Irish will stack up against the likes of North Carolina, Duke and Maryland in the ACC.
JE: Well, let's start with the obvious. What's your initial reaction to Notre Dame basketball in the ACC?
JC: I think it's a home run. People who grew up with your father's Big East or even the Big East I played in from 2001 to 2005, that's going to be no more without Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia. I think that would be cause for recruits to shudder a little bit because it's a hard sell to play in a Big East that really wasn't what it was before. Now you shift to the ACC, which becomes in my opinion the most powerful conference in the nation. To align ourselves with that, I think it's great for basketball.
JE: I know it's only been a few hours, but have you sensed there's excitement among Notre Dame fans and players about the move?
JC: There's no former alumnus or current player who's not looking at this with excitement. This is a match made in heaven on both fronts. I slept in today and woke up at 8:45 this morning, and I had texts from a bunch of former teammates and friends I went to school with. I texted with coach [Mike] Brey today, and he was over-the-moon about it. A lot of this realignment stuff is typically football-driven. The fact that basketball was able to come out in such great position in this, that's great.
JE: Notre Dame enjoyed a lot of recruiting success in a Northeast-centric league like the Big East, but it seems like that can continue with the way the ACC is changing. Do you think it will be easier or harder to recruit in the ACC than it would have been going forward in the Big East?
JC: From a recruiting standpoint, the ACC is great because coach Brey does great in that area. He has ties there from his Duke days and one of his assistants has Virginia and Clemson ties. Plus, the ACC has good football, but let's be honest, it's a basketball-first conference. You'll be able to go to Duke and play at Cameron. You'll be able to go to North Carolina and play at the Dean Dome. For a young kid who wants to play big-time basketball, you've got to be over the moon for an opportunity like this.
JE: Was it important for Notre Dame basketball to stay in a league with footholds in the New York and D.C. area rather than going to the Big 12 for example?
JC: I'm sure coach was hoping he could stay in that region. When people started saying the Big 12 could be an option for us, I thought right away you'd have to reinvent the wheel in terms of how you recruit. You'd have to start looking at kids in the Midwest. As you look at our roster annually, you don't see a lot of kids from Texas or Oklahoma. We don't typically get guys from there. I do think we dodged a bullet there. Now coach can still comfortably go into the D.C. pipeline, which he has often. You've still got the New York and Boston area. It works out perfectly for them.
JE: So is there any downside to the ACC for Notre Dame basketball in your mind?
JC: <chuckles> The only downside is you have to play Duke and North Carolina every year. I say that jokingly. Notre Dame can definitely compete with those guys. We've shown we can compete with teams at the highest level. That's a testament to the job coach Brey has done at Notre Dame.
JE: The ACC is going to be loaded with Duke and North Carolina always strong, Syracuse and Pittsburgh coming in and Maryland and NC State both on the rise again. Can Notre Dame compete for league titles in a league like that?
JC: One of the biggest keys to our success recently is we've been able to play a style that is so drastically different from most teams in the Big East. We've used the ability to slow it down to our benefit. That's still something that's going to be an advantage in the ACC as well. I think when the Big East was at its highest level in recent years, it has been an incredibly strong conference. You've seen national champions come out of it -- Syracuse and UConn -- yet Notre Dame still figured in that top tier. When you compare what the ACC will be to what the Big East was then, it's comparable. So there's no reason to think that Notre Dame doesn't remain in that top tier in the ACC. I expect them to compete with the Dukes and North Carolinas year in and year out.