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Reading Between the Lines in the Notre Dame, ACC Deal


By now, everyone knows about the details of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish‘s move to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

If not, what rock have you been living under?

But, if you are one of the few, here is the skinny on what went down yesterday.

Notre Dame will join the ACC in all sports except for football as it is important and vital for the Irish to maintain its independence in football.  There is no time table on when the Irish will join the ACC. Notre Dame will keep its revenue from its television deal with NBC and the ACC will keep its current revenue with its deal with ESPN.  The Irish have committed to playing a minimum of five football games each season against ACC Football teams.  Notre Dame will not be eligible to play for the ACC Football Championship, but could be eligible to play in a designated ACC Bowl spot outside the BCS.

So that’s the quick and the dirty.

No let us take a look and read between the lines on this historic day in the ACC.

First, with the vote by the Committee of Presidents to allow Notre Dame into the conference the ACC also increased its exit fee three-fold to $50 million.

Yes, 5-0 M-I-L-L-I-O-N….

This is a huge component of the story that not one single reporter asked anyone from the ACC or Notre Dame yesterday.  The amount is interesting as it gives a marker of what the figures are of a new TV deal the ACC will begin to workout with ESPN. Even ACC Commissioner John Swofford admitted as much in the press conference yesterday afternoon.

“I had some conversations with ESPN on our TV contract last week,” Swofford said. “It will be an enhancement with our current deal and will be beneficial to our member schools.”

A key point in this quote is Swofford saying, “last week”.  In the world of Twitter and social media, it was amazing a story such as large as this one was not leaked or broken.

Swofford’s insight or slip here gives some tremendous insight.

When the ACC added the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Syracuse Orange, the take per school was $17 million. Look for this new deal with the addition of Notre Dame to payout in the $40+ million range hence the exit fee being set at $50 million.

ESPN wants Notre Dame, no doubt, and Swofford and the ACC knows it can leverage this relationship to its financial benefit.

The second major point of Notre Dame becoming a member of the ACC but remaining its “independence” in its football program is the agreement of postseason and bowl play.

Both the ACC and Notre Dame wants to begin playing this five game football schedule by 2014.  So even though there is not a time table for the Irish to join the ACC, there is a time table for the five game football schedule to begin.

This is in great part to both the ACC and Notre Dame wanting to maximize its BCS and Bowl take.  The sooner this happens, the sooner the printer in the corner of the room will start spitting out $100 bills.

How will this agreement work?

Well, let’s just say Notre Dame is saying they are “independent” but will operate under the ACC when it is convenient for the program.

In a perfect world, for both the Irish and the ACC, the ACC Champion would take its spot in new Plus-1 Game for a shot at a National Title.  Notre Dame would also qualify for this Plus-1 and play for a chance at the title.  The ACC runner-up would take the spot in the Orange Bowl and that huge payout.  Each ACC member school would get a chance at a better bowl and the revenue that goes along with it.

Even in a not so perfect world, the ACC would expect its champion in the Orange Bowl against maybe the Irish.  The Irish could accept another BCS Bowl birth.  Each member ACC institution still gets a chance to improve its bowl slot.

“We are determined to remain independent,” Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said. “This is a financially neutral deal for us. But the ACC and its post-season football package is a major component and is definitely a benefit for us. I hope we can be an asset to them in football as well. It is important to our history and culture at Notre Dame to remain independent, but if things change we are committed to the ACC.”

That quote speaks volumes.

Notre Dame has never felt that it needs to be reliant on anyone.  Fact is financially it doesn’t have to take or be any conferences left overs.

But the Irish have not had a BCS birth ever.  Its “independence” has not been a favorable factor in the eyes of recruiting which directly relates to who plays for the title each year.

NBC wants a better bang for its buck and Swarbrick knows the ACC will bring this.

So as the story continues to develop, remember to read between the lines.

What you will find is a trail of $$$$$ and a heck of a lot more national exposure and relevance for Notre Dame and the ACC.


M. Shannon Smallwood has over 10 years experience in sports broadcasting, journalism and college athletics and currently covers ACC Football for Rant Sports.

Follow him @woodysmalls