As HLS noted earlier, Notre Dame announced that all sports outside of football and hockey will join the Atlantic Coast Conference, and that the football program will play 5 games per season against ACC competition.
A potential change in conference affiliation has been brewing over the past few years, with various ND to Big 12 or Big 10 or ACC rumors swirling at various points. Jack Swarbrick had made it clear that his preference was to remain in the Big East and remain independent in football, but that Notre Dame would play the best hand it could given the cards that were dealt by other NCAA institutions.
There is little doubt that maintaining football independence was the most important factor in determining ND’s future conference home, and this agreement with the ACC allows the Irish to do that while strengthening the competition for the other athletic programs (there may be a debate about men’s basketball, but with Pittsburgh and Syracuse also migrating the ACC should be the strongest basketball conference going forward). For that, I applaud the move and am frankly more excited to watch the Irish compete in the Olympic sports against programs such as Georgia Tech and Clemson instead of Seton Hall and USF. At the same time, I am THRILLED to be able to watch the Irish host the likes of the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels at the Purcell Pavilion.
Seeing the bowl situation Notre Dame is in right now, which is hoping to get into the Champs Sports Bowl once every few years, this move couldn’t be better for ND’s post-season destination options. Giving the Irish access to the Orange Bowl, the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Russell Athletic Bowl offers options that are far from possibilities in the status quo and should give us more to look forward to in seasons where the Irish aren’t likely to qualify for one of the four playoff spots.
That being said, there is some concern with the implications of the football agreement with the ACC. According to Notre Dame’s press release, the Irish will play five ACC football programs annually and every conference member at least once every 3 seasons. Starting next year, there will be 14 football programs in the ACC. Realistically, this leaves the Irish playing a cycle of 5 different ACC teams on a rotating basis each season. While it will bring some excitement to have new opponents and will certainly offer an excellent opportunity to the ACC programs, it makes it very difficult for the Irish to develop any true rivalries with teams like Virginia Tech and Florida State. Also, with 5 scheduled ACC games and series with USC, Michigan and Navy continuing into the foreseeable future, Swarbrick and the athletic department will have their work cut out for them in designing a 12 game schedule each season.
What do you think about the move? Do you think this is a positive or negative for Notre Dame in going forward in terms of football, basketball and other sports?