Notre Dame Football Reportedly Could Play for ACC Title If New Proposal Passes

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2020

FILE - In this Dec. 28, 2019, file photo, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, center, runs onto the field with his players before the Camping World Bowl NCAA college football game against Iowa State in Orlando, Fla. The Atlantic Coast Conference and Notre Dame are considering whether the Fighting Irish will give up their treasured football independence for the 2020 season play as a member of the league. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

The ACC is weighing a plan that would allow Notre Dame to compete for a conference championship in 2020, according to ESPN's Andrea Adelson

"Sources indicated that was only one of various scheduling models under discussion, and changes continue to be made to models and proposed schedules," per Adelson. "Any scheduling model needs approval from the ACC board of directors, made up of all 15 presidents and chancellors."

The Big Ten announced on July 9 it was adopting a conference-only schedule for fall sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pac-12 followed suit one day later.

Adelson reported those inside the ACC have had "no appetite" for adopting a conference-only format. Instead, teams would be allowed one nonconference game in addition to their ACC slates.

Notre Dame remains independent in football but joined the ACC for all other sports in 2012. Under the terms of the deal, however, the Fighting Irish plays roughly half of its football schedule against ACC teams.

Affiliating itself more formally with the ACC would make sense for Notre Dame, but Adelson noted the move isn't necessarily straightforward from the conference's perspective.

The Fighting Irish play Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville over their final three games. Those teams all have annual rivalries with SEC teams: South Carolina for Clemson; Georgia for Georgia Tech; and Kentucky for Louisville.

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Adding Notre Dame to the schedule would then potentially jeopardize those encounters if ACC teams are allowed just the one nonconference game. Making the Fighting Irish a temporary ACC member would be a solution to that problem.

As an independent, Notre Dame would be significantly impacted if more Power Five conferences go the way of the Big Ten and Pac-12. The Fighting Irish have already lost out on marquee matchups with Stanford, Wisconsin and USC.

Notre Dame football's independent status has extended for more than a century, but the program might have to settle for what amounts to a marriage of convenience.