Here come the Irish, sort of
Posted September 12, 2012
Updated September 13, 2012
Notre Dame and the ACC are going into business. Yes, we are checking to see if a very warm place has had a massive cold front move in. Although that place hasn’t completely frozen over, the ACC has agreed to take Notre Dame in for every sport except for football.
The Irish will still be playing by their own rules, maintaining independence in football, but ND isn’t as free as they have been in the past. The ACC will get Notre Dame on the schedule for five schools every year, but seeing Boston College already plays the Fighting Irish every year, it really is four schools that get to line up against the university in South Bend, Indiana. At least for the next three years that is the plan.
In 2015, Notre Dame’s deal with NBC expires and that could signal the end of the Irish run as an independent. This is why John Swofford wanted to get a deal done now and not allow Notre Dame to broker a deal with the Big East, Big Ten or Big 12. In particular the Big Ten and Big 12 are already stronger than the ACC, if either scooped up Notre Dame that would sentence the ACC to be the fifth most important conference in football.
John Swofford and company can’t have that. Does this make the ACC a better conference today? No, the Irish still aren’t full members, but tomorrow is a different story. Increasing the league buyout so ND can’t jump ship three years from now does strengthen the ACC a bit. So how did we get here?
It has felt like Notre Dame has been backed into a corner. It seems inevitable the Irish would join a conference, so for ND, why not join the most relevant conference that gives them the best chance to keep most of its toys? The Irish needed a conference just desperate enough to let them do that, but strong enough to keep them on the national scene, sorry Big East.
The Irish would be behind Texas in the Big 12, and well the Big Ten network splits their money. Notre Dame wants to keep their TV deal and at least most of the money from such a deal. See the Irish eyed what Texas did with their television package, and there is no way the Big 12 would let two schools do that. The Big Ten is pretty happy with things, no need to accommodate Notre Dame, than have to deal with Ohio State and Michigan wanting similar deals.
The ACC almost has no choice but to let the Irish have their own deal, but this might actually work out for the new home of 99% of the Irish sports.
Sure the Irish have been mediocre for the better part of a decade in football, but they still bring fans to bowl games, eyeballs (albeit a declining number) to televisions and dollars. Did I mention; lots and lots of dollars, which is what college football is about, oh and new television contracts. So for the next three years, the ACC can work with Notre Dame to leverage NBC and ESPN against each other. ESPN loves brand names, and ACC basketball is what the conference could dangle. And in three years, the ACC can press ND to be a full member in football while keeping a TV deal with NBC.
Is it a sure thing that Notre Dame football will be a full member? No, but if the ACC didn’t make a deal with the Irish it wasn’t a sure thing that the conference could keep itself together. Remember, this off-season Florida State and Clemson were looking to leave. After including the Irish, the exit fee has shot to $50 million and the conference can rest assured it will at worse stay the same.