ACC Expansion: Could Notre Dame Join the Conference?

By Ryan McCart

Notre Dame and the ACC have been in talks recently. Joining the conference is a slim possibility but both sides are only admitting talks concerning the Orange Bowl. However, this might be the first time that a conference would have an advantage over Notre Dame in such negotiations. Let’s face it; the only reason that Notre Dame is still independent in football is because of their television contract with NBC. Is it possible that the ACC would allow Notre Dame to join the conference but retain its TV contract, is Notre Dame a good fit for the ACC, and is there any real chance of this happening?

The Fighting Irish are only independent in football, but are currently members of the Big East in most of their other sports. Money and tradition are the reasons that football has remained independent for so long, but don’t fool yourselves, it is money more than anything. The ACC, up until this point, haven’t shown such leniency in terms of allowing a school to not participate in all sports for the conference. All 12 schools in the ACC are full time members, something Notre Dame has done everything to avoid in the past.

The TV contract is everything to Notre Dame, but the landscape of college football is changing. The Longhorn Network for the University of Texas in the Big 12 is evidence of that. Chances are that the ACC would allow Notre Dames contract with NBC to continue if the Fighting Irish would be willing to share that revenue with the rest of the conference. As of now, that seems like a doubtful proposition.

That brings up the second question about whether or not Notre Dame fits in as an academic institution with the rest of the conference. The answer to that is yes. Notre Dame’s size and academic standards fit in well with the rest of the ACC, just as the newest ACC members Pittsburgh and Syracuse do. This would be a match made in heaven in terms of academics.

Now the real question; could this actually happen? For the first time Notre Dame might actually have to succumb to pressure and join a conference in all sports. The ACC makes the most sense academically, but not necessarily geographically. South Bend is smack dab in the middle of Big 10 country, but with the Big East’s cross country tour of expansion it is evident that geography doesn’t matter as much as it once did.

The ACC currently has the upper hand, but neither side has publicly expressed an interest in such a marriage, and an invitation has not been issued. But, if the ACC decides to extend such a hand then there is a real chance of this happening, which would mean there would suddenly be a mad dash of interest from other schools to become the ACC’s 16th team. However, everything will be the same in 2012 and probably 2013. 2014 could be a different story.

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