Their partnership, announced Wednesday, is imperfect. But as Fighting Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick said, the move is mutually beneficial and rooted in "shared values."
Sure, the ACC preferred that Notre Dame forgo its football independence and join as a full member.
But despite a 24-year national-championship drought, Irish football remains unique, with a coast-to-coast cache that makes annual games against the likes of Southern California and Navy non-negotiable.
"We didn't think we could give (independence) up without losing our identity," said Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president.
So starting in 2014, the Irish will play five ACC teams each football season. The opponents will rotate, meaning each league school will face Notre Dame once every three years.
“I’m excited that Notre Dame will be coming to Blacksburg to play
“You’re talking to a guy who coached at
Notre Dame also will be part of the opponent pool opposite the ACC champion in the
As soon as negotiation and/or litigation allow, Notre Dame’s other sports programs will exit the
Commissioner John Swofford said he expects the arrangement to increase the conference’s 15-year, $3.6-billion contract with ESPN and that negotiations have started. The ACC will keep its football revenue from ESPN, while Notre Dame retains its windfall from
For basketball, which accounts for about 20 percent of television monies, Notre Dame, as the 15th school, will receive one-fifteenth of ACC revenue.
"With the additions of
So why now?
The tipping point for the Irish was this summer's adoption of a football playoff and the trickle down effect on other bowls. Teaming with the ACC improves Notre Dame's postseason options outside the playoff exponentially.
Long opposed to accepting partial members, the ACC began reconsidering during a turbulent spring and summer replete with uninformed criticism of its new television contract and wanderlust rumblings about member schools such as
Quoting Clemson president
In unanimously inviting Notre Dame, Barker and his fellow presidents also doubled the ACC's exit fee to approximately $50 million. So please, no more realignment foolishness.
The $50 million penalty lets "everyone know that we're ACC brothers ... now and forevermore," Florida State basketball coach Leonard Hamilton told the Orlando Sentinel.
Fans and media love to roll their eyes when presidents and commissioners mention academics as a driving force in conference decisions. But that is absolutely the case, especially here.
As a renowned private institution, Notre Dame is bathrobe-and-slippers comfortable with schools such as
"Shared values," indeed.
Relationships also were XXXL important in forging this deal.
Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, whom Swofford cited as a major player, worked 30 years at Notre Dame; Duke athletic director Kevin White held the same position at Notre Dame; Swofford's predecessor as commissioner, Gene Corrigan, is a former Irish AD and counseled Swofford throughout.
Credit Swofford, too, for closing the deal with Swarbrick.
"We're going to have to pick out china pretty soon," Swarbrick said, deadpan as could be, about all the time he and Swofford spent together.
Swarbrick’s most misinterpreted comment will be his calling the ACC a perfect geographic fit for Notre Dame. At 375 miles,
Joining the ACC takes the Irish to Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and
Partial membership for Notre Dame also precludes the need for a 16th ACC school. The conference will remain at 14 for football, with seven-team divisions, and simply add the Irish for basketball and other sports, a change that merely tweaks scheduling and league tournaments.
"There's no need to add a 16th team," Swofford said, "and no intention to do so. From a practical standpoint, it's illogical."
That only changes on the Root Boy Slim chance that Notre Dame finds football independence untenable and joins all-in.
Last September, Swofford called the ACC's additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse "monumental." He used the same word Wednesday.
He was right then. He is more right now.
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