Published September 13. 2012 4:00AM
It was after a game last year, standing in a hallway of the XL Center, that Geno Auriemma called this one. Geno, holding court with a few of us, said that based on conversations with People Who Know These Things, Notre Dame's exit from the Big East would be inevitable for this reason: It needed a landing spot for its non-revenue sports, lest they be forced to travel all four time zones and whittle away money because of the Big East's new expanse.
The question: Which of the existing power conferences would genuflect before God's University and offer the absorbing, "thank you sir, may we have another?"
The answer: the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Of course. Notre Dame in the ACC. Who among us could forget Rockne's immortal line, "win one for the Gipper, y'all."
Now as much as we'd like to vomit at Notre Dame's utter shamelessness - you'd think such a prestigious institution wouldn't need to pander - you kind of need to tip your cap at the University of Sanctimony's resourcefulness.
The Irish found another patsy.
And now they're someone else's problem.
Which is why it was a bit perplexing Wednesday to read some doom-and-gloom musings about the Big East because of Notre Dame's exit. Au contraire. New commissioner Mike Aresco must be singing spirituals today. Because what, really, did Notre Dame honestly ever do for the conference?
Aside from, you know, steal bowl bids from full-time members?
As one UConn guy said Wednesday, "it's not like Notre Dame ever moved the needle," meaning that Notre Dame's other sports outside of football didn't rally the masses.
Notre Dame's decision probably affects women's basketball the most, removing one of the nation's best teams from the conference. But as we're reminded occasionally, nobody cares about women's basketball beyond state borders.
So now Notre Dame gets to steal bowl bids from schools in another league. As blogger Mark Blaudschun, formerly of the Boston Globe, wrote Wednesday:
"Notre Dame's arrangement with the Big East allowed it to slide into bowl slots allotted to Big East teams with certain exemptions. For the next two seasons all those exemptions are gone, which meant that a 6-6, 7-5 or even 8-4 Notre Dame team could be left out of the bowl dance. Irish officials didn't like that. So they moved to the ACC, which will now allow Notre Dame to get into its regular bowl rotation as a non-member in football. And that folks is a giant body blow to the non-elite teams of the ACC."
It sure is. Again, though, the ACC's willingness to participate in, "Yes, Notre Dame," "right away, Notre Dame," and "cream and sugar, Notre Dame?" means the ACC gets what it deserves.
The ACC's willingness to add a 15th school in all but one sport has triggered plenty of speculation here in Connecticut about whether the league would add one more and go to 16. Might that be UConn? The best answer at the moment is a really good maybe.
It's all posturing. The UConn people say they have a stranglehold on the New York market because of the recent partnership with SNY and because the Yankees have reached out to UConn to play a regular season game at Yankee Stadium. Spies at UConn said Wednesday the Yankee brass was less than enthralled with Rutgers, working with the Rutgers people and the disappointing crowds for Rutgers-Army (30,028) and the Pinstripe Bowl (38,328) at Yankee Stadium last season.
Give UConn this, too: Its fans show up in droves to Madison Square Garden every March, dwarfing the crickets who show up for Rutgers.
But then if you talk to the Rutgers folks, you hear another story.
The best argument for adding a 16th school would be symmetry. Sixteen schools in all the other sports means two divisions of eight. In football with 15 schools, the scenario could work like this: Notre Dame plays five ACC teams every three years. That means all 15 other schools would be guaranteed Notre Dame on campus once every six years.
ACC commissioner John Swofford didn't sound as if further expansion was a priority during Wednesday's news conference. Not necessarily buying that.
Besides, Swofford probably has to clear everything with his new boss: Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins, CSC.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.