Notre Dame Goes To ACC: Bowl Security, Football Scheduling Flexibility Key To Move
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).