After months and years of speculation, the University of Notre Dame has finally accepted an invitation to join the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
It is believed the switch could be made starting in the 2013-14 season, but maybe not until 2015. Notre Dame would likely need to give a payout to leave before 2015.
The move will not affect the Irish football team's independence, but they will play 5 ACC conference games per season once the switch is made. Notre Dame will also now fall under the ACC' s non-BCS bowl package as well.
The ACC also decided today was a good day to drop this conference bombshell: Exit fees to leave the conference have now been jacked up to $50 million.
More analysis coming after the jump.
First, here are some comments from Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins:
"The ACC is composed of some of the most highly respected universities in the country, and we at Notre Dame look forward to joining them. With a mix of institutions - many of which are also private, similar to Notre Dame in size, and committed to excellence in research and undergraduate education - the ACC is an exceptionally good fit for us academically, as well as athletically."
Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said:
"We have monitored the changing conference landscape for many months and have concluded that moving to the ACC is the best course of action for us. We are able to maintain our historic independence in football, join in the ACC's non-BCS bowl package, and provide a new and extremely competitive home for our other sports."
ACC Commissioner John Swofford:
"The ACC was founded on the cornerstones of balancing academics, athletics and integrity. Our partnership with Notre Dame only strengthens this long-standing commitment. Notre Dame enhances the league's unique blend of public and private institutions that are international in scope. The collective alumni and fan bases cover the entire country with exceptionally strong roots up and down the Atlantic Coast. This is a terrific milestone in the evolution of the ACC and showcases tremendous solidarity and vision by our Council of Presidents."
Homerun move by Notre Dame.
1) Olympic Sports Find a Stable Long-Term Home
In discussing the conference switch in the past we've talked about how the ACC fits Notre Dame's Olympic sports really well. Needless to say, the basketball programs have to be ecstatic to join a conference with Duke, North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Florida State, Pitt, and Syracuse.
Lacrosse now joins perhaps the strongest conference in the country in the middle of the sport's traditional hotbed of talent.
Baseball and softball move to warm weather climates more in support of their sports.
It goes on and on. With the crumbling of the Big East this was a great move to a conference with great depth and talent across it's Olympic sports, in an area of the country that is warm and continues to grow in population.
With football remaining independent, and hockey soon making the move to the country's best conference in the Hockey East, things are looking mighty great for the Notre Dame athletic department.
2) Financially This Will Work
Swarbrick stated that the move was not financial in nature, and that Notre Dame will be allowed to keep its NBC contract for home football games. It is thought that the Irish will not make more, or less, money in the ACC then they do right now.
However, this will lock Notre Dame into a stable financial situation (particularly with bowl games) and possibly strengthen the school's negotiations with NBC in the future. What's more, now the ACC will have more bargaining power in the future with a very stable conference that just added the crown jewel of expansion programs in Notre Dame.
3) It's a Great Fit Academically
I have no doubt that this was a huge factor for President Jenkins and the Notre Dame professors. It's been argued numerous times that Notre Dame likely wanted nothing to do with a conference like the Big 10 that is composed mostly of behemoth secular universities that share little in common with the goals and beliefs of Our Lady. The Irish certainly wanted nothing to do with a group of schools that typically dislike Notre Dame and are bossed around by Michigan and Ohio State.
Now in the ACC, the University of Notre Dame walks into a partnership with schools that look an awful lot like they do. There's more private schools, there's more focus on academics at the liberal arts level, and there isn't 100 years of dislike standing in the way.
4) The Move Had to be Made for Future Football Schedules
Yes, 5 games a season feels like a lot to play---but I think it will be just fine.
The issue moving forward was always going to be finding a way for Notre Dame to always have a tough enough schedule in the coming Era of Playoffs to garner support to the big dance. Swarbrick has done a good job maintaining and strengthening the ND football schedule, but he still faces a lot of issues and problems filling out an independent schedule.
Now, he'll be locked into 5 games in the ACC (the rumor is that ND will play every ACC team once every 3 seasons) and that will give him time to focus on filling out the final 7 games on the schedule.
And when you look at it like that...7 games is nothing to sneeze at. It leaves room to keep most of Notre Dame's traditional rivalries and seek out a couple "new" games outside of the usual suspects.
This also pretty much guarantees that Notre Dame will have one of the hardest schedules every season---a key component to allow the Irish to remain independent in football. Remember, there were serious concerns in the past that with growing conferences the Irish would be essentially blocked out from playing tough teams. Now that worry is over.
5) Who are the Most Important Rivalries to Keep?
We know USC and Navy are going to stay on the schedule. That's a guaranteed lock.
That leaves 5 more games per season to work with.
In order to keep its presence in California every year, I am sure Stanford is going to remain on the schedule quite often as well. There are far too many connections there for this relationship to go down the drain.
The question moving forward may be just how many B1G games the Irish will want to play. Assuming 5 ACC games, USC, Navy, and Stanford, that leaves 4 games to work with.
In all likelihood, the days of playing 3 B1G teams in one season are over. That means we're going to see a lot less of Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue.
I've always had the feeling that Michigan has been quite willing to walk away from their series with Notre Dame, and that the Michigan State rivalry is storied enough to maintain. We'll see what the future holds.
6) Recruiting and New Rivalries are Exciting
Purely from a football standpoint, the move to the ACC is huge for recruiting.
The Irish already have over 30 players on their current roster from the ACC footprint and now the staff will be able to work the South and East Coast much easier while playing all of these new conference members. They will get to recruit in strong Notre Dame hotbeds like Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan, but now more inroads can be made into the serious talent hotbeds in Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas.
The new games against ACC teams should also be pretty fun. Sure there are a handful of small stadiums and a couple school's who aren't football crazy, but only Duke is the really boring game. Games against Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland aren't going to blow anyone away but they are quality road games to travel to and certainly much better than what could have been offered in the Big Ten or Big 12.
Plus, Notre Dame gets to play Virginia Tech (they've never met on the gridiron before), as well as rotate in marquee games against Florida State, Miami, and Clemson. I certainly like the sound of that, and recruiting does as well.
7) Notre Dame Still Maintains its National Appeal
This was a big part of switching conference in my opinion. Notre Dame didn't really want to go to the Big Ten or Big 12 because there aren't as many growing TV markets and much smaller alumni bases. In terms of eyeballs, those conferences were not a good choice.
With the move to the ACC, Notre Dame now strengthens its presence in two key areas: The East Coast and the Southeastern United States. That's great for football and many of Notre Dame's sports, but it's also great for the University.
More people are going to be invested in Notre Dame and that is a good sign for the future.
What are your thoughts on the move? Do you see any more positive repercussions? How about any negative ones?
We'll add any more updates as they become available.