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Big 12 Expansion, Notre Dame, And ACC Grant of Rights

Notre Dame is an Independent football power, and despite all noise to the contrary, they will remain one for a very long time.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Temple Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

How long can the Notre Dame Fighting Irish remain Independent in football? Seriously- how can they do it while a massive amount of college football fans and talking heads are basically demanding that the Irish join a conference?

Well, it’s because Notre Dame has Savvy Jack Swarbrick.

“Best dressed pirate you’ll ever see.”

Let’s take this back for a minute. Remember how this all really got started? Remember how conference expansion really took off like a bottle rocket? It was when Nebraska decided that enough was enough, and instead of being controlled by Texas (as the Big 12 was) it was going to head to a place that would appreciate them and shortly give them an equal share at the table... The Big Ten.

And so began the crazy storm of conference expansion everywhere, an unbelievable amount of rumors and bad information, and a decent amount of moves. When it was all said and done, college football had changed forever.

Through all of this, Jack Swarbrick fought off rumor after rumor and sell after sell for the Irish to join a conference- and for the Irish to join theirs. Eventually, Jack pulled off an amazing deal after the Big East and Bog 12 got ravaged. Notre Dame would send all of its sports to the ACC, the football program would remain Independent, but the football team would also be bound to a 5 game a year schedule with ACC opponents- opponents which reside all up and down the east coast.

Why bring all this up now? Because it’s kind of happening all over again. Sure, it may sound like a a few small moves that don’t affect the Irish, and that’s both true and untrue.

The Big 12 is looking to expand, and by looking to expand by two or even four teams, they are destined to shake up the entire college football world. The last time this happened, people were trying to paint Notre Dame into a corner and “make” them join the Big Ten- maybe even the Big 12 itself.

Fortunately for the Irish and the Independence it desires in football, Jack was able to make a pretty fair deal to protect all of that- and provide more stability to an ACC that was teetering on the edge of have a few teams plucked from its membership.

That partnership that Notre Dame formed with the ACC only got stronger this year with the new grant of rights deal. The ACC will launch a new ACC Network in August of 2019 with ESPN. This deal will last through the 2035-2036 season. It makes leaving the ACC almost impossible for any school that would wish to do so, and of course this means Notre Dame as well. The Irish are contractually obligated to join the ACC in football should it choose to leave being an independent behind.

Swofford said Notre Dame was no closer to joining the conference for football, but "the phone lines are always open."

What does all of this mean moving forward? Very little, and a great deal.

Jack Swarbrick has done his job with due diligence. Why won’t Notre Dame join a conference in football? Because it doesn’t have to.

  • The only way Notre Dame would join a conference in football is if they were being left out of the college football playoff.
  • Notre Dame is very much in the mix to gain a playoff spot these past two years- it came down to them winning.
  • The conference commissioners have not forced a rule by the college playoff committee to only include conference champions, because they don’t EVER want a second team left out in a year that it might have that happen.
  • The playoffs will most likely be expanded to 8 teams by or before its 12 year deal is up after the 2016 season.

Once again, we have Jack Swarbrick making the deals to see the Irish where they want to be- Independent. The brilliant thing is, is that if conference expansion just goes nuts again and everything blows up, Jack and Notre Dame already has their conference of choice hand-picked (not that ANYONE would turn them down). Basically, the seeds are sown- even if Notre Dame wants the fruit to rot in the ground.

Despite any noise to the contrary (looking right at you Tim BLOW VERY HARD Brando), Notre Dame isn’t going to do anything it doesn’t want to do because nobody is forcing their hand out of their own greed for multiple playoff teams. If another schism occurs, the playoff would be expanded, and Notre Dame IS STILL IN THE DRIVERS SEAT.

This is all very savvy.

How will Big 12 expansion affect Notre Dame? It won’t. Not in those terms. It may have a scheduling effect, but Notre Dame is and has always been in a position to make its own schedule with just about anyone in the country and that isn’t changing any time soon.

To sum up... Notre Dame stays Independent- FOREVER. That’s all anyone needs to know about Jack Swarbrick. He’s cool in any climate.