Notre Dame’s AD, Jack Swarbrick, has truly been an impact player and advocate for the Fighting Irish during the recent conversations amongst conference officials in determining the future state, or lack thereof, of the BCS.
To make a long story short (watch this video to see what I mean), Notre Dame came out of the whole BCS playoff picture and conference alignment mess unscathed. If anything, they’ve enhanced their position by not having to join a conference to gain access to the new playoff model and by enhancing their bowl partnerships with a premier bowl opportunity.
There has been much speculation about whether or not the Irish are delaying the inevitable of joining a conference by aligning to certain conference’s bowl allegiances (i.e. Orange Bowl via ACC). But with the Irish eligible for the playoff and bowls like the Orange Bowl, there is no rush to abandon their independence.
None of this, however, means that the Irish won’t shop around their Olympic sports to a conference not named the Big East.
Academically speaking, the ACC is the most closely aligned given the intellectually driven universities like Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Notre Dame has little in common with the Big 12 except that Texas has forged it’s own quasi-independent football alliance by negotiating special TV rights outside of the Big 12’s contracts.
The fact of the matter is, Notre Dame is staying put and will do so for the foreseeable future in football.
Olympic sports remain a question mark but will not be a driver in moving football into a conference. Football membership, or the absence of a clause requiring all sports to join, will be the primary cog in the system determining the fate of the university’s cash cow and identity.