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March 10, 2013

Brey anticipates exit to ACC

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As Mike Brey continues to create ways for his basketball team to make a splash in post-season play, he addressed the future of Notre Dame basketball moments after his team's 73-57 loss Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.

The journey from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference appears to be imminent.

"No one has told me - my AD - nobody has told me what it's going to entail," Brey said. "But I'm fully expecting to play in the ACC. That's what we talked about, and that's what we talked about with our scheduling stuff now that we have direction.

"I don't know what the next step is for us. There's got to be a negotiation now with us and the Big East. We felt if it happened fast - the Catholics full split - then we would have some options in Greensboro. It did happen fast. (The move to the ACC) is what I'm assuming, and I think we're all expecting that in the department."

The fall, or at least a seismic shift in the Big East, took place earlier in the week when it was announced that the Catholic 7 - Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and DePaul - would officially secede from the current Big East at the end of June and take with them the conference moniker.

Meanwhile, the remaining members of the current Big East - Notre Dame, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Rutgers and South Florida - will begin the process of dispersing to their various locations.

Louisville, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Rutgers and South Florida will become part of a new league - expected to be called the America 12 Conference - although Louisville will join the ACC in 2014-15 and Rutgers shifts to the Big Ten. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are off to the ACC while Notre Dame almost undoubtedly will be joining its new conference in 2013 as well.

The end of the Big East era as we've known it will come to a rather inglorious close after opening its doors in 1979 with St. John's, Providence, Georgetown, Syracuse, Connecticut, Seton Hall and Boston College as the original members. Villanova would be added a year later, and Pittsburgh came aboard in 1982.

Dave Gavitt was the Big East's first commissioner, and his right hand man and successor, Mike Tranghese, oversaw the rise of the conference to the pinnacle of college basketball. Connecticut was the first to break through as winners of the 1999 national championship. Syracuse was next in 2003, followed by two more UConn national titles in 2004 and 2011.

Notre Dame basketball was at a crossroads as one of the last remaining independents in the early '90s. Finally, in 1995, the Irish joined the Big East, and although the early years were a struggle under head coach John MacLeod, Notre Dame has since established itself as a consistent upper-tier presence in what became known as college basketball's premier conference.

Brey led Notre Dame to its first winning season in the Big East in 2000-01 by claiming the West Division in his first year with the Irish. Notre Dame has finished in the upper half of the Big East six of the last seven years, including a third-place finish last season and a second-place finish in 2010-11.

"I've been able to make my name and my career in this league," Brey reflected. "It's kind of sad thinking about it, and I think I'll probably have those same feelings in New York (during the Big East tournament).

"You kind of get excited about the new challenge of the ACC. But (the Big East) was a heckuva league. It's still hard to believe."

After having his heartstrings tugged in so many different directions in anticipation of the timing of Notre Dame's departure from the Big East, Brey is ready to move on to his program's new digs.

"I would love to (get on with it)," Brey said. "I've kind of just put my head in the ground lately and said, 'Okay, that's probably what we're doing.' I don't even want updates with what's going on with negotiations and all that stuff.

"I'm sure (ND athletics director) Jack (Swarbrick) and I will visit Monday when he gets to us in New York. But it certainly looks like (the ACC) is where we're headed."

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