The comment came during a discussion with Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel, then both with FOX, about the ACC Network — which Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel had called “imminent” one day prior.
“It’s a little early to be thinking about starting a linear network now, given the economics,” said Brando, as transcribed by The Spun. “It may not be the time in a year or two years, but in three years I believe you’ll be looking right down the pipe at an ACC Network, and I think the reason will be Notre Dame elected to become a full-time member.”
It turns out Brando was half right. The ACC Network will launch on Aug. 22, but Notre Dame’s decision to become a full-time member was not the impetus.
“FINANCIAL BEST INTERESTS”
Brando has long held the belief that Notre Dame will join a conference because of financial pressures.
“I do believe it’s going to happen when Notre Dame understands that it’s in their financial best interests to be in a conference. Because they cannot command the same same dollar from NBC or any other network by simply having seven home games televised,” Brando told Mandel and Feldman.
The NBC deal was reportedly worth $15 million annually in 2013, at which point the deal was extended through the 2025 season. The revised terms were not disclosed.
The ACC distributed about $29.5 million in revenue to each to its members in the 2018 fiscal year, with the exception of Notre Dame. The Irish received $7.9 million, according to the conference’s tax records.
Notre Dame receives one-fifth of a full share of the conference’s rights fees from ESPN, according to the Daily Press, but will receive a full share of ACC Network revenue. That could be worth an additional $8 million annually, according to Fox Sports.
Brando is correct that Notre Dame cannot command the same television revenue as their ACC brethren, but the Irish acknowledge that.
“There’s no financial advantage to Notre Dame being independent,” Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick told ND Insider last December. “There is no competitive advantage to get into the College Football Playoff for Notre Dame to be independent. So why are we independent?We’re independent to have opportunities like this one (playing the Wisconsin Badgers in the Shamrock Series).”
I believe the desire to maintain independence also transcends football, which Brando either doesn’t understand or dismisses prematurely.
“I’ve long argued that Notre Dame would lose money by joining a conference, but the loss would come in donations,” The Athletic’s Pete Sampson tweeted last December. “When independence is your culture — athletic and institutional — and you’re raising $700 million per year in development, you don’t sweat $10 million in media rights.”
Notre Dame is obligated to join the ACC if they want to join any conference for football before 2035. But, as ACC Commissioner John Swofford said last month: “I think some people thought we brought in Notre Dame with the understanding they would eventually join the conference. That is not accurate.”
HOW DOES INDEPENDENCE AFFECT BRIAN KELLY?
During the 2016 interview, Brando said he’s had “many conversations – both publicly and privately” with Coach Brian Kelly about Notre Dame’s independent status and said, “I don’t think there’s any doubt he would prefer to be in a conference.”
(Brando also said he has “on record” comments from Kelly that he does not value independence — and does not like “how disjointed his schedule vs. those in major conferences has become,” but I don’t know where those exist.)
If Brando is telling the truth, Kelly hasn’t admitted these feelings to any other reporter. In fact, he’s said the opposite.
Last month, Treasure Coast Newspapers’ Jon Santucci asked Kelly if he liked Notre Dame being an independent.
“We love the fact we can play a schedule that has USC and Georgia and Michigan and allows us Florida State last year, Miami. We get that kind of blend of having an independent schedule,” the head coach said.
Kelly told Dan Patrick in 2013 that the Irish didn’t need to join a conference, said his “choice would be to stay independent” in 2012 and added, “We’re going to do everything we can to be independent” in 2011. He has also said independence — and the opportunity to play teams on both coasts — gives his staff an advantage in recruiting.
“There’s nothing better than being an independent football school,” said Kelly in May 2010.
This bears repeating. The next time you hear Tim Brando say anything about Notre Dame football, remember:
- By his own admission, Brando’s been saying the same thing about Notre Dame joining a conference since the BCS era.
- Brando said in May 2017 that there were informal discussions between Swarbrick and Swofford about Notre Dame joining a conference, which both Swarbrick and Swofford denied.
- Tim Brando is not a reporter. He’s a commentator.
Since the June 2016 audio is no longer available online, here’s a June 2017 episode when Tim, Stew and Bruce rehash the Tim’s opinion on Notre Dame. (Starts at the 24:00 mark)