Pitino believes the Big East will survive

ESPN's Andy Katz reached out to Rick Pitino to get his reaction to yesterday's madness, and The Godfather let it be known that he's more than happy with U of L's conference situation as it currently stands.

"I'm happy with Big East basketball," said Pitino, who was on the road recruiting when reached by ESPN.com on Wednesday afternoon. "I didn't want to lose Pitt and Syracuse, but now we're at a manageable 15 teams. We still have top-20 teams in Cincinnati, Georgetown, Marquette, Louisville, Villanova and West Virginia. We still have a great league. The schools like Rutgers and DePaul are getting much better. Losing Syracuse and Pitt hurts our quality, but 17 was going to be ridiculous."

"None of us here want to leave the Big East or playing in Madison Square Garden," Pitino continued. "We want to be in the Big East in recruiting. We're very happy in the Big East."

Pitino stated that it's his understanding that the conference will add at least a couple of the service academies as football-playing only members, a move he wouldn't support if it meant those schools (or any others) would be joining the basketball conference.

"We don't want any more basketball teams," Pitino said. "I feel very comfortable saying that we're going to be in the Big East. Now if you said to me two months ago that Syracuse and Pitt would leave the Big East, I never thought that.

"We have a great conference. If it stays at 15, then we could get eight or nine in the NCAA tournament. We just had 11 out of 16. We will still have one of the strongest conferences in the country."

Pitino, who already wrote on his blog about his puzzlement over why Syracuse and Pitt would leave the Big East for the ACC when the same move has done so little for Boston College, added that he couldn't see U of L scheduling the Orange or the Panthers in the future.

"It's not that I wouldn't play them, but we can't," he said. "There is no animosity. I don't blame them. But there's no reason for them to play us and no reason for us to play them."

There was never any doubt where Pitino was going to come down on this issue, but the fact of the matter is that it's impossible to be so definitive at a time when members like Connecticut and Rutgers are still looking to make the move to the ACC. I've already been told that should the opportunity to jump to the Big 12 present itself, the biggest concern is that it would accelerate Pitino's retirement.

In the end, though, the decision that is best for the overall athletics program is the one that has to be made.

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