Bowl Busted: How ACC Teams Are Being Set Up by the Relationship with Notre Dame

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Bowl Busted: How ACC Teams Are Being Set Up by the Relationship with Notre Dame
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Even though much is being made this week of Notre Dame’s perilous non-BCS bowl situation coming into the 2013 season, after next year the Irish may well screw full-fledged ACC football members out of their rightful bowl bids.

Indeed, according to an article posted on ESPN.com this past Thursday, if Notre Dame doesn’t finish in the top 14 of the final BCS standings in 2013 then technically it won’t have a bowl opportunity among the 35 “other” postseason games.

This all comes down to the Irish not having a conference connection which would give them an official bowl tie-in, a scenario that will end when Notre Dame hooks up with the ACC in all sports but football in 2014.

As the article points out, it would be unreasonable to think that one of the 35 “other” bowl games wouldn’t make arrangements to financially compensate a conference with a tie-in and welcome Notre Dame with open arms if it weren’t to meet the BCS qualifications this season.

This basically makes the cataclysmic warning that the Irish may sit home in the 2013-14 postseason seem like a bit of an alarmist claim but, before we all return our attention to the NBA playoffs this wild point actually leads to another more interesting angle.

Moving forward to 2014 and onwards, when Notre Dame is “kind-of,” “sort-of” a member of the ACC in football, but, not really because it’s still technically independent, did you know that the Irish will actually have primacy over the real members of the ACC in terms of “other” bowl bids?

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
ACC commissioner John Swofford with Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer

Yes, refer back to the above referenced ESPN.com article to get ACC commissioner John Swofford’s explanation.

There will be a provision in which for Notre Dame to be selected over an ACC team at the point of selection, another eligible ACC team, that Notre Dame would have to be ranked higher, equal to, or in the win column, be within one win of any ACC teams that are also eligible to be picked.

The key words here are pretty obvious; “be within one win of any ACC teams that are also eligible to be picked."

Reading on further, to the final paragraph of the piece, we get the final blow to the fans of the 12 full-fledged—not quasi-independent—football members of the ACC.

For example, an 8-4 Notre Dame could not be selected over a 10-2 ACC team, but could be selected over a 9-3 or worse ACC team.

To quantify this further, if Notre Dame finished 9-3 in 2014 and didn’t make the BCS and Clemson finished 10-2 then the Irish could trump the Tigers in the bowl selection hierarchy.

This means that if Clemson managed to finish second overall in the ACC by virtue of their record and therefore qualified for the conference’s top non-BCS bowl bid—which for now is the Chick-fil-A Bowl— then plausibly Notre Dame would go and face, say, LSU while the Tigers would be relegated to the Music City or Sun Bowl.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

And if you don’t think that the Chick-fil-A organizers would do this, think to yourself what business people charged with making money would do when faced with the following selection; LSU vs. Notre Dame or LSU vs. Clemson.

Exactly.

When you add in the fact that Clemson would have earned its 10-2 mark by playing eight conference games and four non-conference foes while the Irish played a sometimes dubious and highly flexible independent slate the pill becomes that much more difficult to swallow.

The big story here is not Notre Dame being at risk of going bowl-less in 2013, instead the headline should have read something like “ACC Sells its Own Soul to be Associated With Notre Dame.”

Or, alternatively, how about “The ACC: The Biggest Independence Enabler in College Football History.”

Though it’s an undeniable fact that Notre Dame is a great university with un-matched brand power, it’s still difficult to understand how a conference would be willing to throw its own members under the bus just to form such a dubious connection.

Especially given that football, the one sport that is not truly linked in the new relationship, is the cash cow of collegiate sports.

Throw in the current instability in terms conference realignment where teams like Florida State, Miami (Fla.) and Clemson (primarily football dominant schools) are ripe for the picking and the arrangement seems curious at best.

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