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The “single-most critical factor that nudged Notre Dame away from its relationship with the Big East and into the arms of the ACC was its bowl lineup -- or lack thereof -- if it fell short of the BCS,” according to a front-page piece by Eric Hansen of the SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE. Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said, "We had to solve the challenge of what postseason football would be for us below the BCS level. And that was one of the things that was very important to us in this.” He added, “We believe that our inclusion will help the ACC get better bowls.” Notre Dame will play five ACC opponents in football every year beginning in '14 as part of the arrangement with the conference, and Hansen reports Swarbrick will “provide the ACC with available dates each season.” The league then will "fill in the blanks.” The school will “play three ACC teams at home in 2014, two on the road,” and then the pattern “flip-flops in 2015.” Beyond the ACC portion of the schedule, Swarbrick said that Notre Dame is “committed to playing Stanford, USC and Navy every year.” He acknowledged that the school is “more likely to rotate teams on and off the schedule, specifically as it pertains to Big Ten teams, than it is to drop an opponent all together.” The off-site home game, or Shamrock Series game “as it is now branded, will continue to be part of the scheduling pattern, perhaps even be used to satisfy one of the ACC commitments in a given year.” Hansen writes the precipitating event that “drove the possibility into an absolute” for Notre Dame’s move was the “finishing touches being put on college football's new postseason look” (SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, 9/13).
WANTING TO JOIN NEXT YEAR: In Chicago, Brian Hamilton reports Notre Dame hopes to move its non-football sports to the ACC for the ‘13-14 season, the "same year Syracuse and Pittsburgh make their ACC debuts after similarly departing the Big East.” The Big East requires departing teams to give 27 months notice and pay a $5M exit fee, and both terms will be “up for negotiation, with Notre Dame likely paying the $5 million or a little more to ensure early release.” Swarbrick said, "My own philosophy is, it's in everybody's interests to do it sooner rather than later” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/13). Swarbrick said, "We'll meet all our obligations to the Big East. If there's an opportunity to join the ACC in all of those other sports sooner, we'll do that because that would be great for us and great for the ACC. We'll start the football scheduling in ‘14, the first year of the new BCS arrangement” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/12). In South Bend, Al Lesar notes Notre Dame will “share in everything but the ACC's football revenues.” The league recently signed a deal with ESPN “that would give each member $17 million per year.” Officials estimate that football “accounts for 80 percent of that total (about $13.6 million) while Notre Dame's share would be about $3.4 million.” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said that the “seismic move will prompt discussion about a re-negotiation of the deal” (SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, 9/13).
SOLID RATIONALE FOR MOVE: In Chicago, David Haugh writes "everybody wins” with the move. In addition to the “security scheduling five ACC opponents without compromising traditional series provides Notre Dame, the school lacked an adequate plan for second-tier bowls under the new system.” Aligning with the ACC “immediately alleviated that concern.” Now the ACC “also can use Notre Dame to enhance its stature with the Orange Bowl and to derive more money out of the league's underwhelming TV contract” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/13). CBSSPORTS.com’s Dennis Dodd wrote Notre Dame football was “about to become an outlier,” as being an independent “had its disadvantages.” Because of its “lack of football success and the changing postseason landscape, the Irish were on the brink of being squeezed out of college football relevance.” By playing five games a year against ACC teams, it “got that much-needed access to that postseason” (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/12). However, in Miami, Susan Miller Degnan notes part of the new deal “might not thrill ACC football teams: A bowl provision allows for Notre Dame to be selected over an eligible ACC team if the Irish are ranked higher, equal to, or within one win of another eligible team” (MIAMI HERALD, 9/13).
STICKING TO A SCHEDULE: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel cited a source as saying that Notre Dame’s future 12-game football schedule, “more than any other factor, led to Wednesday's announcement.” The five annual ACC games “provides the Irish with the firm scheduling base it coveted while maintaining the freedom to maintain a national schedule.” In addition, the “weakening, and nationalizing, of the Big East made it easier to leave.” Wetzel: “It wasn't as important as football scheduling, though. In fact, nothing was” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/12). In Columbus, Rob Oller writes Notre Dame “received a scare this year when the Big Ten and Pac-12 established a scheduling agreement that might have squeezed Notre Dame out of traditional rivalry games with Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue, and possibly jeopardize annual games against Stanford and Southern California.” The agreement “fell apart when the Pac-12 pulled out, but not before Notre Dame saw a potential future with itself on the outside looking in” (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 9/13). In Michigan, Graham Couch writes Notre Dame theoretically "could play their six non-ACC every-year rivals -- Navy, Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford and USC -- and honor every contract and rivalry until the end of time.” Notre Dame’s priorities these days “include a heavy emphasis on establishing its footprint and pushing its brand into new cities” (LANSING STATE JOURNAL, 9/13).
FOOTBALL SOON TO COME? In Raleigh, Caulton Tudor notes Notre Dame’s decision to join the ACC “should serve as a convenient bridge for the Irish to someday come completely aboard in football.” Swarbrick said that the school “wants to maintain its long tradition of football independency.” But Tudor notes that eventually “might be impossible even for Notre Dame.” In addition, ACC basketball “will benefit even if Notre Dame never wins a league title or reaches a Final Four simply because the Irish have millions of fans that watch television basketball games coast to coast” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/13). In Atlanta, Mark Bradley wrote, “If/when -- and really, more ‘when’ than ‘if’ -- the Irish realize that independence is to contemporary college football as the Pony Express is to communications, they have nowhere else to go” (AJC.com, 9/12). ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel wrote Notre Dame is "not a full-fledged member of the ACC yet," but the "trend is unmistakable.” It is “obvious that the ACC is an improvement for Notre Dame's other sports.” Maisel: “But since when would Notre Dame give up nearly half of its football schedule to provide a home for the men's basketball team?" (ESPN.com, 9/12).
IMPACT ON HOOPS: SI.com’s Pete Thamel wrote Notre Dame football "paved the way Wednesday for a secure future for Notre Dame basketball.” Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey is “giddy at the ACC opportunity.” Brey called it a "great fit." Brey saw the Big 12 “as an odd fit for recruiting, as the Irish have rarely pointed southwest for players over the years.” ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep, looking at the move as an improvement, said, "They just traded conference games against Houston, SMU and UCF for Duke, North Carolina and Maryland. How can you see it any other way?" (SI.com, 9/12). Brey said, "I told our AD when conference movement was being talked about and the Big 12 was coming after us for this same kind of setup, I said, ‘Jack, we just can’t lose the East. The East is important to our school, especially our basketball program. Please don’t take me to the Big 12’" (NEWSOBSERVER.com, 9/12).
Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick and ACC Commissioner John Swofford “pulled off quite a deal” in moving the school's athletic programs -- minus football and hockey -- to the conference in what is a "coup -- for both sides,” according to a front-page piece by Al Lesar of the SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE. Notre Dame’s basketball and Olympic sports teams “have a stable home,” while the football team “finally has quality non-BCS bowl options it hasn’t had for a while.” The ACC gets “an instant infusion of additional credibility and, in the long run, cash.” The concept of Notre Dame joining without football “wasn’t an idea completely embraced by officials” at all 14 ACC member schools. However, instead of approaching the issue at a large gathering, Swofford “set out to make personal contact with the decision-makers at each school until he got the nine votes he needed” (SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, 9/13). ESPN's Joe Tessitore said Swofford has "done a remarkable job over the course of the early summer through the late summer of stabilizing that league" ("College Football Live," ESPN, 9/12). Georgia Tech AD Dan Radakovich said, “For anyone who thought the ACC was not relevant any longer, I think this kind of puts us back into (the picture). There are five major conferences and we’re one of them. It solidifies our seat at the table” (AJC.com, 9/13).
ADDING A BLUE-CHIPPER: In Baltimore, Kevin Cowherd writes the deal is a “monster get for Swofford.” Cowherd: “Say what you will about the Irish, but their brand is still huge. And now the ACC gets to bask in the reflected glow of one of the most storied universities and legendary athletic programs in all the land” (Baltimore SUN, 9/13). In Augusta, Scott Michaux writes the ACC’s “latest acquisition is a no-brainer.” Notre Dame was “the only free agent on the market worth obtaining” (AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, 9/13). In DC, Dan Daly writes, “Even given its football struggles of late ... Notre Dame remains a Coca-Cola-type brand name. If the Irish visit your stadium, their followers will come. And so will the television cameras” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/13). SI.com’s Michael Rosenberg wrote, “Everybody wants to play Notre Dame in football. ... Playing Notre Dame is an event, the way it's an event when the Yankees come to town” (SI.com, 9/12). In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes any affiliation with Notre Dame, whether it "lasts for 10 years or for a single Saturday afternoon, is a jackpot.” George: “Notre Dame makes the ACC more stable, lessening the likelihood that FSU or Clemson or Virginia Tech or anybody else will be tempted to jump to another, more powerful football league. Also, Notre Dame sells out stadiums wherever it goes” (PALM BEACH POST, 9/13). Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's Jim Kozimor said, “The biggest, most important ticket in college sports is Notre Dame” (“Chronicle Live" CSN Bay Area, 9/12).
HUGE MOVE FOR THE CONFERENCE: In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes, “Notre Dame’s fan base is large, loyal and national, and any athletic conference that can sign the school up wins” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/13). ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich wrote under the header, “ACC Gets Big Win With ND In The Lineup” (ESPN.com, 9/12). In L.A., Chris Dufresne writes under the header, “Notre Dame's Move, Minus Football, To ACC Will Benefit Everyone” (L.A. TIMES, 9/13). USA TODAY’s Christine Brennan writes Notre Dame "still commands attention like no one else in college sports." Its move from the Big East to the ACC "is as close to a defining moment as we’ll get amid the chaos of the once-orderly world of college sports” (USA TODAY, 9/13). However, in Jacksonville, Don Coble writes while the ACC “will benefit by Notre Dame playing five games against ACC opponents,” that “still won’t take it to the level of other leagues" like the SEC, Big 10, Pac-12 and Big 12 (JACKSONVILLE.com, 9/13).
NO PLANS FOR FURTHER EXPANSION: Swofford noted the ACC has no plans to expand further despite the addition of Notre Dame giving the league an odd number of members. He said, “We will have 15 members. Notre Dame will be an exception in football. If we brought in a 16th (school) now, then that would simply throw our football divisions out of balance. So it’s illogical to bring in a 16th member at this point” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 9/12). However, in Hartford, Paul Doyle notes the ACC "could add a non-football school such as Georgetown if it wanted a 16-team basketball league” (HARTFORD COURANT, 9/13).
With Notre Dame leaving the Big East for the ACC and UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun announcing his retirement today, the "future credibility of the ... league is tenuous,” according to Eric Prisbell of USA TODAY. The league that “gave birth to epic rivalries and coaching narratives in the 1980s … is not yet a shell of its former self.” But college sports “appears to be moving toward mega-conferences, and the Big East’s place in that landscape is uncertain.” Noting that the Big East is “unstable,” ESPN's Jay Bilas said that the conference “could continue to be a competitive league -- much like the Atlantic 10 in some ways -- but its influence will be diminished.” Bilas noted that the Big East “'won’t have a seat at the table’ with the increasingly expanding BCS football dominant conferences.” Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco yesterday “defended the power of his basketball league” despite the departure of West Virginia for the Big 12 this year and the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to the ACC. Aresco said, "We have the strongest group of basketball schools in the country. That does not change" (USA TODAY, 9/13). Former ACC Commissioner and former Notre Dame AD Gene Corrigan said, "I do feel bad for the Big East, but most everyone I know there is gone now. I don’t recognize that conference anymore” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/13). CBSSPORTS.com’s Gary Parrish wrote under the header, “A Tough Nine-Year Stretch Has Made The Big East Unrecognizable” (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/12).
ANOTHER BIG BLOW: ESPN.com’s Andrea Adelson wrote the departure of Notre Dame is a “big blow once again to the national perception of the Big East.” It is also a “big blow to its other sports as well” (ESPN.com, 9/12). In Houston, Jerome Solomon wrote the Big East "isn’t dead just because Notre Dame has bailed on the league, but the conference takes another significant hit that makes it less attractive to television networks" (CHRON.com, 9/12). ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil wrote while other conferences continue "to get stronger, the Big East merely gets more muddled, forced to nickel and dime new members in the hopes of closing the gaping holes left by the ones that are leaving.” The Big East is the Big East “in name only, with a brand teetering toward generic” (ESPN.com, 9/12). In Philadelphia, Dick Jerardi writes, “I could actually handle the Big East without Notre Dame and West Virginia. I could even deal with losing Pittsburgh, a very good program the last decade, but still not one of the schools you think of when you think Big East.” However, the Big East without Syracuse “is not the Big East, no matter what anybody tries to tell you” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 9/13). SI.com’s Andy Staples wrote that by recruiting Notre Dame, ACC Commissioner John Swofford has “essentially plunged the knife" into the Big East's heart (SI.com, 9/12).
TV TALK: In Hartford, Paul Doyle notes the Big East “began a 60-day exclusive negotiating period with ESPN on Sept. 1,” but the loss of Notre Dame “can’t be ignored, even if the Irish weren’t part of the Big East’s football package.” LHB Sports Entertainment & Media President & CEO Lee Berke said, “You want to project stability. Any time a school leaves, it harms that. But at least it’s not a football school in the sense that they weren’t providing football programming for the Big East” (HARTFORD COURANT, 9/13). ESPN's Darren Rovell noted the “big cost” to the Big East will be with the TV contract "that they’re currently negotiating” with ESPN. Rovell: “I know that Mike Aresco wants to say that Notre Dame leaving doesn’t really hurt the Big East, but it certainly does” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 9/12).
GLASS HALF FULL: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote yesterday was “a good day for the Big East.” Wetzel: “Losing Notre Dame in basketball and other sports isn’t a plus. And yes, it will likely lower the amount of money the Big East can demand in its current television negotiations, but only a little.” The ACC “clearly stated it has no interest in bringing in a 16th member,” which “ends the threat of the conference raiding the Big East again” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/12). SPORTING NEWS’ Mike DeCourcy wrote Notre Dame’s move “does not kill the Big East.” There will be “enough significant teams for the Big East to succeed” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 9/12).
SPLIT SCREEN? In Philadelphia, Mike Jensen asks, “Will Big East schools that don’t play football decide this is the tipping point that causes them to go their own way?" Jensen: "Maybe, but the guess is that it is one step short of such a tipping point." Losing UConn or Louisville in addition to Notre Dame "could cause the Big East to split apart." But, "again, this move wasn’t a surprise” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/13).
News of Notre Dame's impending move to the ACC "came as a big surprise to many in the Big 12," according to Chip Brown of ORANGEBLOODS.com. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and former Big 12 interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas "both had conversations" with Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick about joining the conference, including keeping the school "in the loop about the Big 12's decision to partner with the SEC on the Champions Bowl, which will begin New Year's Night 2015." The conversations "had included Notre Dame playing up to six games against Big 12 schools." A source said, "No one is going to say it publicly, but this is a bit of a surprise and a big disappointment. We thought Notre Dame would be able to pursue its own network in the Big 12 and be a great fit here. I'm not sure what Notre Dame is going to be able to do in terms of its own network in the ACC" (ORANGEBLOODS.com, 9/12). Bowlsby said, "We never got to the point where we were talking about, ‘This is what it will cost,’ or ‘This is what our concerns are.'" He said that extended negotiations "on the Fox and ESPN TV deals also played a role" in Notre Dame not joining the Big 12. Bowlsby: "We had spent some time about how this might fit together. Everybody knew Notre Dame wanted football to stay independent. That creates rough spots, especially for us in the middle of a TV negotiation. Had the TV deal been completed months ago, it would have given us a known element" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/13). Meanwhile, Texas Men's AD DeLoss Dodds said of Notre Dame's move, "They had to do something. We wish they would have come this way, but they did what was right for them and we absolutely understand that" (WSJ.com, 9/12).
Florida State Univ. BOT Chair Allan Bense said that the school yesterday “voted against" the ACC's new $50M buyout for teams that want to leave the conference, according to D.C. Reeves of WARCHANT.com. Bense said, “I personally think that $50 million is punitive. I'm not sure that holds up.” Bense emphasized that FSU has “no plans to explore any other conferences.” Reeves wrote the “staggering figure could hamstring the school if it had any plans to make changes down the road.” He said, “I'm not implying that there's going to be any changes, but $50 million is a lot of money. ... We have no desire to get out, but $50 million makes it pretty tough to do anything.” He added that the Univ. of Maryland also “voted against the increased buyout.” Reeves noted nine of the conference’s 12 schools “had to vote for the increase for it to be approved.” Meanwhile, Bense was “clear that he approved of the move to add Notre Dame to the league.” He said, "It's good for the ACC and Florida State" (WARCHANT.com, 9/12). Bense added of the exit fee, “I don’t know how you can justify that number. But clearly there were enough schools that wanted that high exit fee” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/13). In Tallahassee, Jim Henry notes the ACC Council of Presidents last September "voted to up the exit penalty from $12-$14 million to $20 million ... when voting to add Syracuse and Pittsburgh to form a new 14-team conference." FSU President Eric Barron, who repped the school at this year's Council of Presidents meeting yesterday, said, "$20 million already is a big number. Fifty million dollars is a much bigger number." Henry notes the "increased exit fee follows this past summer’s speculation that FSU and Clemson were being courted by the Big 12" (TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT, 9/13).