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What would happen if Notre Dame and the ACC got divorced?

Who do the Irish keep in case of an ACC football divorce?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 28 NC State at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Conference Realignment Blues

The general feeling among college football fans is that there’s going to be this giant, seismic shift in the conference landscape and the sport/culture as we know it will never be the same. Only we don’t know when it will happen or how Notre Dame will fit into the new world order. Probably the most certain outcome, though, is that a solid 50% of the fan base will hate every aspect of it and swear that it’ll be the end of all football (murmur, murmur, tradition). To be honest, given all of the shenanigans that have hit the sport over the last couple years there’s a real likelihood that I’ll be with the surly bunch shaking our fists from the porch.

But we’ve got very little control over it all from our vantage points so let’s buckle up and try to make the ride somewhat enjoyable. There are already a lot of thoughts and theories floating around in the Notre Dame fandom but one is probably the closest to consensus: we want off the apparently doomed ACC football ship.

ND-ACC History

Full transparency, the pseudo relationship between Notre Dame football and the ACC has been pretty good to me. The two organizations announced their scheduling agreement in the fall of 2012 and played their first game under the partnership in the fall of 2014. I graduated in 2013, went straight from South Bend out to Washington D.C. and split the rest of my thirties between Chicago and the DMV.

As a young alum and ND football fan, I couldn’t have asked for a better set up. The ACC arrangement all but guaranteed that every season I’d be able to see Irish football live without breaking my very broke 20-something year old budget (if you could even call it that). When living in Chicago, it was just a quick hop over via the South Shore. During the D.C. years it was either a short flight or road trip with many of the fellow East Coast Domers. The Kizer-Fuller touchdown pass that put Notre Dame up over UVA in 2014 will always be legendary for me. Not just because the Irish pulled out the victory (granted the game shouldn’t have come down to 12 seconds) but more so because very few things will beat seeing the truly defeated looks on the faces of the Cavalier student section as they realized their Cinderella moment and field storming dreams were not meant to be.

Main Pain Points

But now that I’ve moved down to Texas, I’m starting to realize why so many ND fans aren’t too keen on the scheduling agreement. On the one hand, the Irish’s dominance over ACC opponents leaves us wondering if we should be in search of more fertile football grounds. And on the other hand, there’s the looming sense of concern that the conference will ultimately implode not just because of the “performance issues” but because the TV rights winds are not blowing in its favor. The recent CW deal may present a stronger future for the conference but that network isn’t exactly known as a go-to destination for college football.

Divorce Scenario & Context

Who knows how things will turn out but for now let’s consider a world in which for whatever reason the ACC-ND football marriage ends before the 2036 obligation. In this scenario Notre Dame would maintain some semblance of its Independent status and scheduling flexibility. With close to 10 seasons of playing ACC opponents on a regular basis who would Irish fans like to continue playing?

ACC Membership

Some context. The ACC is currently made up of 14 schools for football. The core schools hailing from the Virginias and Carolinas founded the conference between 1953-1954 and includes Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest and Virginia. Over time the conference broadened its geographic reach, still sticking mostly to the “Atlantic Coast.” During its second wave of expansion, between 1983 and 1992, the conference added two teams, Georgia Tech and Florida State. The 2004-2005 wave of expansion brought in Miami (FL), Virginia Tech and Boston College. The most recent 2013-2014 expansion wave brought Pitt, Syracuse and Louisville into the mix.

ACC General Performance

When it comes to overall success on the field, the ACC’s members have produced a really mixed bag. Of the Founding Group, Clemson reigns supreme with a 66% overall win rate. North Carolina and NC State make up the middle with 53% win rates while Duke, Wake Forest and Virginia make up the bottom performing portion.

Florida State, which entered in 1992, lays claim to the best overall record for current members. Of the remaining Wave 2-4 members, Virginia Tech, Miami (FL) and Pitt have had the most overall success.

ACC Performance - ND Context

The 2023 ND football schedule has the Irish set to face off against six ACC opponents. Four of those opponents, Clemson, Duke, NC State, and Wake Forest, were a part of the ACC’s Founding Group.

Custody Arrangements

So say that ND gets two ACC spots on its new, post ACC scheduling agreement schedule. Which school from each of the conferences’ membership waves would you choose to vie for those 2 spots from season to season?

Founding Group

  • Clemson
  • Duke
  • North Carolina
  • North Carolina State
  • Wake Forest
  • Virginia

Wave 2

  • Georgia Tech
  • Florida State

Wave 3

  • Miami (FL)
  • Virginia Tech
  • Boston College

Wave 4

  • Pitt
  • Syracuse
  • Louisville

Cheers and Go Irish!!