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How Notre Dame Leaving The Big East Could Impact Mid-Majors

Jonathan Daniel - Getty Images

Here's a quasi math question for you.

What feels like a stronger conference?

2011-2012 Big East basketball members, minus West Virginia, Syracuse , Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and a depleted UConn, plus Memphis, Temple, Houston, SMU and UCF... or just the 2011-2012 Big East basketball members?

A one-two sucker punch to the psyche of ardent Big East fans was absorbed Wednesday, and it's implications could extend to the long-term future of the little guy.

With Notre Dame basketball preparing to leave the Big East reportedly 2-3 seasons from now and Jim Calhoun stepping away from the program he literally grew from a doormat to a powerhouse, the viability of a Big (Strong) East basketball conference is very much in question.

Like a game of Jenga, the removal of one or two more key blocks could bring this conference crashing down.


What does this mean for the little guy?

Well, aside from just saying it inclusion into a once highly sought after league may now have a decreasingly lower barrier of entry, there are actually real trickle down effects at play here.

First, if you are a Division I school with both a football and basketball program, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco is going to give you a look. Your location does not matter. Hawaii may even want to start expecting a phone call.

Second, because Big East football can only improve if it can make a major splash, Aresco will likely start to look at mid-major schools that are basketball first, meaning the entire Missouri Valley and Atlantic 10 could conceivably be targeted as a last ditch effort to save what the conference was originally built for: hoops.

Third, a crumbling Big East Conference could give way to a long speculated (more for fun than rationality) Catholic school league that brings together schools like Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Villanova and St. John's with true mid-major programs like Creighton, Holy Cross and Siena with fringe mid-major programs like Dayton, Xavier and perhaps even Gonzaga.

Notre Dame and Boston College, sorry, you wouldn't be invited.

It may be far fetched, but the league would be strictly about hoops, and likely allow it to develop a true identity while larger, football first, schools continued to wage war on one another trying to develop super conferences.

Personally, the idea just sounds better and better as you type it out. Certainly there are issues I'm glossing over that inhibit this from occurring. The immediate issue at hand is that it's a conference with schools that primarily have small enrollments, meaning a small alumni pool, and a limited fan base. Those sorts of numbers really matter when shopping around for the right TV deal.

But at the same time, Catholic schools tend to be located in cities, and the conference would be able to pull at least a small audience from major markets New York, Boston (Providence), Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and a respectable audience from mid-level markets like Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Omaha.

That sorts of number -- a massive conglomeration of media markets -- really matters when shopping around for said TV deal.

The bottom line is that conference reshuffling is still very much a fluid movement that can involve mid-majors at any moment. Perhaps it's not great news for Big East fans upset about what's been lost, but it's certainly something that could open doors for smaller schools that emphasize basketball in their athletic department.