Notre Dame will join ACC as full member w/exception of football. ND will play 5 football games annually vs. ACC, sources told @espn
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) September 12, 2012
And here you thought realignment was only a summer fling? Notre Dame, long an independent on the football circuit with the rest of their sports domesticated in the Big East, plans the same arrangement with the ACC. Big East by-laws require a 27-month notice when you break up with them and while that wasn’t an issue for West Virginia (the Mountaineers paid $20 million to join the Big 12 early), it may be even less of one now. Notre Dame likely pays around $5 million to leave their Big East brethren. With the addition of the Irish, exit fees in the ACC rise to three times an athletic department’s operating budget, so approximately $50 million.
Five non-conference games played against ACC competition and a likely partnership in the Orange Bowl drives another realignment stake in the ground for three conferences. Let’s consider:
It offsets the basketball additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse and perhaps invokes a “look-in” clause in the recently expanded ACC television package. Notre Dame draws revenue and ratings no matter their relevancy and ACC teams are now guaranteed to face the Irish at least once every three years. Think the athletic directors at various ACC institutions are excited about the financial windfall a visit from Notre Dame provides for their bottom line and community?
As part of the $50 million exit fee structure, we can cross off those ACC schools rumored for Big 12 departures. Florida State won’t leave their current digs and trade the lures of a rivalry with Texas or Oklahoma and longer plane rides for familiarity and a connection to the Irish. 15 football members provokes the question of forming a 16-team super conference but that’s not occurring unless Notre Dame joins in football as well.
Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds have told anyone who would listen the league was happy with ten members. It looks like that had more merit than conspiracy theorists wanted to believe. Dodds in particular has chased Notre Dame for partial Big 12 membership going on a decade. He liked the notion of pairing his program with the Irish but had to sell Midwest destinations rather than the east coast exposure of the ACC.
The newly-minted ESPN and Fox TV contract allows the Big 12 to be patient in considering expansion. It’s well known that the powers in charge at Oklahoma and Texas don’t like the idea of a conference championship game. Does the Big 12 add Louisville for the sake of doing it or would the Cardinals inflate the value of the conference? At this point, neither is definitely true and it seems likely Bowlsby simply waits.
The Big East is negotiating with ESPN to extend their television package. What do you think the World Wide Leader’s lawyers said this morning when Notre Dame bailed? It’s a kick in the gut to new commissioner Mike Arescoand his TV background will be tested. The Big East was already viewed as falling behind the other five major conferences and Notre Dame’s exit does little to change that perception.