Just as I was finishing up my first (OK, second) cup of coffee of the day, the news broke. My Twitter feed erupted, my phone began buzzing and the radio waves lit up.
Notre Dame had joined a conference. Wait, switched a conference. Well, the Irish sorta did a bit of both.
Welcome to expansion in 2012.
ESPN’s Brett McMurphy—the godfather of expansion updates—confirmed that Notre Dame will join the ACC as a full member…except in football. As his tweet indicates, however, there will be some connection to the ACC in football. Notre Dame will play five ACC games each year.
Notre Dame will join ACC as full member w/exception of football. ND will play 5 football games annually vs. ACC, sources told @espn— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) September 12, 2012
Timed with this, the ACC has also decided to boost the exit fee to a robust $50 million! This could become a nationwide trend soon enough, which is wonderful news for those who are tired of expansion, or better yet, expansion rumors. Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, buckle up, you appear in it for the long haul. With this news, perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing.
There have been plenty of whispers connecting Notre Dame and the ACC over the past few months, although it’s difficult to take any of these with seriousness after what has transpired over the past few years. This process will begin, however, and a messy divorce with the Big East is on the horizon.
The Big East requires 27 months notice for teams leaving, although as we saw with West Virginia, Pitt and Syracuse, this can be manipulated. Translation: Open up your checkbooks. Notre Dame has no issues on that front, and it'll likely be ACC bound before its contract is up. You’ll hear much posturing, but in the end Notre Dame will add enough zeros that will get this done.
As for football (which is what we’re really interested in), this move is more bark than actual bite. Once again, Notre Dame gets its way because, well, it's Notre Dame. This is nothing new and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but the Irish held all the cards when it came to expansion and have decided to use them.
The Big Ten has pursued Notre Dame for quite some time, but the conference wanted the full Notre Dame, aka the version that included football. The Irish weren’t ready to give up full independence, and now they don’t have to. And while the ACC caved in to its demands, we can’t blame it. This is a huge win for the conference—being connected to America’s most popular team is a great, great thing—and also a win for ND.
The Irish keep their independence. They hang on to scheduling flexibility. Bigger yet, however, they hang on to the massive NBC television contract which will not be impacted, according to the South Bend Tribune.
A final note -- for now -- on ND-ACC elopement -- the arrangement will NOT affect #NotreDame's TV contract with NBC.— Eric Hansen (@hansenNDInsider) September 12, 2012
Notre Dame’s five games with the ACC sound like a lot, but in reality this won’t change much.
In 2011, the Irish played four ACC teams (Boston College, Pitt, Maryland and Wake Forest) and they have four ACC teams on the docket this year. The only difference in 2012 is that they have Miami instead of Maryland.
In this new setup, however, Notre Dame will have games against others in the ACC, and we’ll be treated to fascinating matchups against Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson and a few others. That’s very good news for college football.
This, in most years, will also give Notre Dame’s schedule some stability. The Irish's 2012 road is a challenging one, and while getting big-time programs on their schedule on a yearly basis is good for all of us, this deal should help soften things. They’ll still keep their rivalry games from all indications, and the ACC will now help them fill out a good chunk of the schedule.
This is no knock on the ACC, but this will certainly help take some strain off what has become one of the toughest schedule in the country on a yearly basis. With that said, they'll still have the freedom to work some games in certain years as they wish—the best of both worlds.
This deal works out for both sides, although it happened on Notre Dame’s terms. Given the school's presence and power over the college landscape, this is far from a surprise.
And for those of you that have tried to wrap your mind around the foolish, “Is Notre Dame still relevant?” questions that have surfaced, I think you have your answer.
Not that this was ever in doubt.