Published March 05. 2013 4:00AM
South Bend, Ind.
Time's passage has turned Notre Dame's institutional pretentiousness into a duller ache. It's more amusing than vexing now, how this gray, vanilla campus that's deader than Hoffa for roughly 359 days a year inspires so many pilgrimages and maintains such cachet.
We've grown accustomed to the selfishness and self-importance, the fables, myths and all the blubbering about Knute, the Gipper and Field Goal Jesus. But never before, not even in this place built upon history, real and imagined, has a similar act of exponential shamelessness been perpetrated.
This is what appeared in an ESPN.com story a few days ago:
"If the Catholic 7 is leaving and forming its own conference for next year, they could certainly call us to want to explore our options," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said. "And if they were interested in accommodating us, it would certainly be a viable option. We have a lot of respect for those schools and know them well."
There you have it, folks.
The University of Sanctimony has been reduced to begging.
Please, Catholic 7, we need you.
A more cynical fellow might hold a series of candlelight vigils in the hope that one - just one - president from a Catholic 7 school calls Swarbrick and says, "Share your football money with us and we're all yours."
Of course, we'd have a better chance of seeing Field Goal Jesus high-five Nick Saban than for Notre Dame to espouse the ideals on which it was allegedly founded and share anything with anybody.
So as we wait for the phone call, shall we enjoy Notre Dame's potential path to purgatory?
Notre Dame made a decision last month to stay in the Big East for the 2013-14 academic year before heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference for everything but football. Now comes the fun part: "The Big East" as we know it for next year is likely going to be the Catholic 7 - Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova - and perhaps the additions of Butler and Xavier. UConn and the others will belong to a yet-to-be-named conference.
The ACC, with many fall schedules for next year already completed, would have to negotiate the vagaries of a 15-team league to accommodate the Irish. An early entrance to the ACC, as ESPN reported, "might mean negotiating a buyout similar to other schools that have forged early exits."
ACC commissioner John Swofford told the Greensboro News Record Monday that he "doesn't yet know of a 'drop dead' date by which Notre Dame would have to inform the ACC of its intention to join next season."
"We've said consistently in Notre Dame's case that we would be ready for them to join us whenever they negotiated an appropriate exit from the Big East," Swofford said. "A lot of the discussions within our league and decisions that needed to be made in regard to Notre Dame joining us and us becoming a 15-member league have already been made. We're ready to accept them whenever they can make that transition, whether it's sooner or later."
And so once again the Sanctimonious Scholars of South Bend are a giant pain in the asphalt to college sports, floating aimlessly, begging shamelessly.
Wouldn't it be a hoot if everybody, particularly the schools that never benefited from Notre Dame's decision to hoard its football money, told the Irish not to let the doorknob leave a lasting impression?
And leave Notre Dame with no conference next year, scrambling to fill its schedules?
The guess here is that the Catholic 7 will cave. Maybe they all deserve each other. The Catholic 7 has spent a number of years now living off revenues generated by UConn, Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh anyway. Maybe they'll prefer to breathe the same air as the Irish for just one more year.
But oh, if they all discovered heretofore unseen levels of fortitude and kicked Notre Dame out on its assets.
One good thing that's come from all this lunacy: UConn's new league might be open to having the women's basketball tournament at Mohegan Sun, now that all those uncorrupted, undefiled, unsullied and obstructionist Catholic schools are gone.
Mitchell Etess, the Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Sun and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, said over the weekend that Neon Uncasville would monitor conference expansion and realignment and stay prepared to be a player.
Etess said he'd also welcome UConn regular season games at the Sun, based on athletic director Warde Manuel's recent comments to the Hartford Courant.
"We are looking at opportunities to showcase in Connecticut," Manuel told columnist Jeff Jacobs.
"We'd love the opportunity to work with Warde and get UConn teams to play here," Etess said.
So while the breakup of the Big East and bad blood between former brethren has been gory, at least there's some good news: Notre Dame is begging and UConn, the Big East women or both might be coming to our corner of the world.
Can't wait to see how this plays. For now, though, Notre Dame squirms. Let's hope it's tedious and tormenting.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.