Ever since the silliness of Notre Dame associating/aligning themselves with the Big 12 died, there have been intermittent reports of a possible alignment of Notre Dame with the ACC.
The ACC members have been vehemently opposed to partial memberships in the past and have had the attitude of “all in” or “not in” but Swofford said today he’s not sure if that is still the case and of course, he wouldn’t say it but others already have – that subject is indeed being considered with respect to Notre Dame. So don’t be shocked if in the near future Notre Dame is an ACC member in all sports except football and has some sort of scheduling agreement to play X-number of ACC schools in football each year.
Now this one.
Speaking of ND. The Irish and the ACC continue to focus on a deal which would allow ND to play 6 games a year against ACC teams in exchange for getting full membership in the ACC in all other sports.
The sticking point would be in basketball. Putting together a schedule for a 15 team league is much tougher than doing it for a 16 team league. Talks will continue.
I’ll give you reason to panic a bit further down, but for now, take a breath.
The first thing to remember is that the primary reason ND and the ACC are talking is primarily about involving Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl as part of a possible pool of opponents. Now, I am sure that both sides have been feeling each other out. The ACC about full membership, ND about maybe moving its non-football sports into the ACC. After that, it’s all guess-work.
Those are concerning, but Paul Zeise and Mike Blaudschun have most of their ties and sources in the Big East. Yes, Blaudschun was a longtime Boston-based reporter, but as any BC person will tell you, he has long been a Big East guy.
Like the Big 12 stuff, there seems to be a lot of positioning and water testing. This time, however, I would say it is primarily coming from the Notre Dame side. I mean, the ACC has been firm on the whole all-in or not in stuff in the past. Plus, the benefits to ND would clearly be greater than any benefits to the ACC.
For Notre Dame the situation would be ideal. A 4-6 game yearly set in football would be easy in the ACC especially compared to the Big 12. They have their traditional and recently traditional foes in Pitt, Boston College, Syracuse and Miami. Then one or two games every year with the some of the other schools. That would still leave the room on ND’s schedule for USC, Navy and Stanford. Plus rotating Michigan, Michigan St., Purdue, Army, and some other teams. The scheduling accommodations would be minimal.
In addition, an alliance with the ACC presumably also means being part of their bowl alliances. ACC folk decry their tie-ins compared to the SEC, Big 10 and Big 12; but compared to the Big East it is a great lay-out and ND would love it.
Obviously the non-football sports would be in a great situation. All sports, including football, would be getting greater exposure in the Southeast. Plus there is the whole academic side of this. As much as the Big East loves to trumpet the natural fit with all the Catholic schools, ND is much more akin to the ACC academics.
What does the ACC get? Well, it gets its teams some good non-con games with a marquee opponent. The bowl tie-in with ND might open the door to better bowl offers with the extra ND carrot (let’s be blunt, Pitt and Cuse did not sweeten the pot to the bowls). At the very least it would test the proposition that ND helps for bowl tie-ins.
That’s about it on the tangible side of actual benefits to the ACC.
What are the other reasons they would consider it? Fear and hope.
Hope first. The hope is obvious. It is the same false hope that the Big East talked itself into. That if they give ND a place to park their other sports that eventually ND would be a part of the conference in football as well. That they would learn to love the Big East. Want to be a full member.
Instead, it not only made it easier for ND to stay as a football independent, it allowed their non-football sports to thrive and get exposure. There is no reason for the ACC to think that it would be any different for them.
Fear is the other reason. The fear that if they don’t do some sort of deal with ND, they will miss out on them. That they will do the partial with the Big 12, and that someday the Big 12 lands them instead — and then plucks FSU — all because they didn’t make that deal.
Our friends at BC Interruption, has the same feelings I do.
Look, I would love to have Notre Dame become part of the ACC, but on our terms, and let’s be realistic that isn’t happening. ND has a sweet media contract with NBC that they won’t be giving up soon, and unless the ACC can convince them that the new college football playoff system demands them to join a conference, I can’t imagine the Irish giving up their independence.
Having ND partially does nothing for the conference. ND won’t be on ACC television networks, the revenue won’t help the ACC all that much, and most importantly the Irish wouldn’t be completely bought into the ACC product. Please ACC if you are going to bring in ND, tell them it’s on your terms or nothing at all.
That attitude is probably the same one from Cuse, VT and Miami fans as well. All fans who have been in the Big East have seen this deal and know it doesn’t work. Fanbases elsewhere in the conference probably don’t share that view right now, or are willing to believe things could be different.
To them, they see the idea of games with ND on a semi-regular basis as enticing. The chance to up the bowl tie-ins. That, unlike the Big East which didn’t have enough to offer in football, the ACC would be different and geographically enticing. Just like the Big 12 fans who wanted to believe the rumors from last month.
My concern is that the administrations/athletic departments at Pitt, Syracuse, BC and Miami may not share their own fans’ views. To them, the partial membership worked in the Big East while they were there. They got games — and have games in the future — with ND. To tie them to the ACC could be seen as an advantage. Especially with continuing to play them in football. Afterall, it would be easier for ND to continue scheduling those schools if it was part of an agreement with the ACC to play a certain number of ACC opponents yearly.
Still both the Zeise and Blaudschun pieces aren’t enough to believe something could really happen. Even if we were to speculate that some of the ex-Big East teams in (or coming to) the ACC supported it, that doesn’t mean the ACC commissioner himself is starting to consider it.
But Swofford seemed to hedge from that stance Sunday when blitzed by reporters following the formal Q&A.
“We haven’t really asked ourselves that question recently,” he said of accepting Notre Dame sans football. “All I can tell you is that in the past, and this pretty much goes back to when Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College came into the league, our schools felt at that point in time that they were not interested in anything other than full membership with anybody.
“Has that changed? I don’t know. … The only thing I have to go on is based on those previous conversations.”
Okay, that isn’t exactly strong one way or the other, but this is a change.
Consider this Swofford remark from the ACC’s preseason basketball function just nine months ago.
“We’re an all-in, revenue-equal conference. That’s very basic to us. That’s what works for us. … I think going forward we will continue to consider equal revenue sharing and full membership or no membership (important) in our conference. I don’t see that changing.”
He wasn’t nearly as adamant Sunday.
Ummm. Could be more about negotiations. The ACC is trying to put something together with the Orange Bowl to include ND. It really doesn’t have to be viewed as a real softening.
For a real reason to be concerned, maybe one of ACC members would have to say something to indicate a crack.
Like most ACC officials, including commissioner John Swofford, Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage dismissed notions last year of Notre Dame joining the conference for all sports except football.
Much has transpired since, most significantly further conference realignment and the adoption of a four-team football playoff starting in 2014. So personal reservations about partial membership aside, Littlepage knows “this kind of discussion has to take place.”
Notre Dame, “is a powerful brand,” Littlepage said via email Wednesday. “Any conference would want to consider their potential value (all in, or partial membership).”
“What is the added value to the ACC of having [Notre Dame] sports other than football?” Littlepage continued. “Do the other … ND sports being in the ACC enhance the ACC brand and prestige to the extent that we all benefit collectively? I don’t have that answer yet.
“Finally there are a variety of financial questions about potential revenue and how it would be shared. Unequal sharing of revenues within conferences has been a facilitating factor in some of the expansion moves we’ve seen already. Needless to say, there are a number of very important topics that would have to be considered.”
Some officials believe a few years of partial ACC membership would convince Notre Dame to go all-in, but the Big East thought that, too.
“There is no question that ND is a great academic institution with a fantastic, comprehensive sports program,” Littlepage wrote. “It would take some convincing, however, for me to believe that having only a portion of ND athletics is best for the ACC at this point in time.
The worry is not that there is a deal coming. It is that they are now on the verge of being willing to consider it.