Should Notre Dame Be a Full-Time ACC Member?
He worked out a deal that allows the football team to remain an independent, with the commitment that they would play five ACC teams each season, beginning this year.
Now, Swarbrick is a very intelligent individual and knows infinitely more about the workings of college athletics than I do but, coming from different perspectives, I thought it would be interesting to examine the pros and cons of the current situation versus becoming full time ACC members.
The first and probably most important factor is money. The deal with the ACC allows Notre Dame to retain its exclusive TV contract with NBC rather than be lumped in with a conference TV deal where they would have to share revenue with the other members. There’s no doubting that with Notre Dame in the fold, the ACC would have the leverage to aggressively renegotiate their current deal but it’s unlikely it would bring a financial benefit to Notre Dame more than the NBC deal.
The second factor is tradition. While making the deal, Swarbrick repeated that it was important for Notre Dame to remain independent because of the tradition of the brand. Being a realist however, he followed that statement by saying tradition would only be a deciding factor as long as it allowed Notre Dame to have access to the national championship. While I agree that part of Notre Dame’s tradition is the fact that they’re independent, I don’t think it would diminish them at all to join the ACC.
The third factor is stability. With all the conference realignment and changes, Swarbrick wanted to make sure Notre Dame had stability with quality opponents as well as access to the postseason.
The current deal gives Notre Dame access to the ACC bowl lineup. Previously, Notre Dame’s bowl options were pretty limited. There was always access to the BCS if they qualified but beyond that, there might be only one other bowl Notre Dame had an agreement with and if it had already played in that bowl during the cycle, it would have to wait and see if a conference couldn’t fill all its bowl obligations to get a bowl invitation.
However, if the notion of superconferences picks back up, the ACC will undoubtedly be one of the players and the Irish may be forced to join if they want to continue to enjoy the stability and conference benefits of the bowls.
The final factor is competition. I find this factor the most interesting of them all because I think it’s really the only one that swings in favor of Notre Dame fully joining the ACC. With the conference realignments and expansions, Swarbrick was concerned about finding quality opponents. This is where having the five annual ACC opponents is mutually beneficial. It automatically fills almost half the schedule for Notre Dame with quality opponents and it brings the ND brand to the ACC.
This also allows Notre Dame to keep some of the traditional rivalries, which appear to be USC, Stanford and Navy going forward. However, even if the Irish played a full conference schedule, they could theoretically keep those three rivalries as non-conference opponents and even have room for an additional opponent unless the ACC moves to a nine-game conference schedule.
The real benefit to joining the ACC is access to the ACC title game. Being independent, it’s national championship or bust for the Irish. If they were eligible to play in a conference title game, not only would it give the players and the fans an added competitive element, but being able to win conference titles would boost their resume and potentially increase their chances of making the playoffs.
If college football stays status quo, the pros of the current deal far outweigh the pros of Notre Dame fully joining the ACC. The Irish get to keep all their TV revenue and get access to the ACC’s bowl games and their only commitment is to play five ACC teams annually, which could be seen as a competitive benefit for them as well.
However, if the landscape changes anymore and conference want to start expanding again, Notre Dame may be forced to fully join or be left out in the cold since access to the playoffs and national championship would almost assuredly run through conference champions.