Anyone over at Jet Propulsion Laboratory could tell you this wasn’t rocket science.
Notre Dame’s announced move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference might have been the biggest news, with the biggest caveat, in press release history.
The Irish are switching conferences in all sports … with the exception of football.
That’s like announcing the Crickets are leaving for another band … except for Buddy Holly.
The news Wednesday was sort of presented inside out. It was certainly a big deal for the ACC, which only months ago teetered on the edge of ineptness as it related to conference realignment. Only weeks ago, there were rumblings the Big 12 might wrench Florida State and Clemson from the ACC.
Why Notre Dame is joining the ACC in all sports except for football is simple: The ACC in a few years will look more like the Big East than the Big East.
The addition of Notre Dame will make six former Big East schools in the ACC. A few years ago, the ACC raided the Big East of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are joining the ACC next year.
Notre Dame’s move made perfect, non-football sense. The school needed refuge for all its other sports. The “old” Big East is reconfiguring and is about to look like the Western Athletic Conference, circa 1996.
The Big East is adding schools such as San Diego State, Boise State, Southern Methodist and Houston. That’s not a conference, it’s a geography test.
Notre Dame joining the ACC is a sweetheart deal for both business partners. The Irish stay independent in football but get the security of five ACC games per year.
That leaves seven dates to maintain Notre Dame’s national identity with games against the likes of USC, Stanford and Navy.
Notre Dame gets to keep its television money, but also buys some insurance by tying into the ACC’s bowl affiliations. And the ACC adds the name brand of Notre Dame.
This is not dramatic news on the football side. Notre Dame played five ACC opponents in football last year if you count future member Pittsburgh. As for tying into the conference’s postseason structure, bowls affiliated with the ACC will also be able to choose Notre Dame. And the Fighting Irish will share bowl revenues just like any other conference member — unless it plays in a BCS bowl other than the Orange; in that case, Notre Dame would keep all the money.
“Speaking strictly from a football standpoint, we have further solidified our future as an independent in college football, maintained our unique ability to schedule nationally and greatly improved our postseason bowl game options,” Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly said in a statement.
Notre Dame doesn’t have to worry now about losing Big Ten opponents should that conference decide to go to a nine-game league schedule. The Irish, if it chooses, can still play Michigan, Michigan State, or Purdue.
What about Notre Dame to the Big Ten?
It could have happened … in 1999. However, the Irish declined that offer and these days the Big Ten is not interested in Notre Dame as a partial member.
The decision Wednesday quells rumors the Big 12 would inevitably make a football run after Notre Dame. It should cap, for now, some of this expansion madness.
If Notre Dame ever decides to join a conference in football, you can safely say it will be the ACC.
Remember, though, in 1995 Notre Dame joined the Big East in all sports except football — and never joined in football.
Notre Dame will remain football independent as long as it can fill its schedule with quality opponents and NBC (or another network) offers exclusive broadcast rights.
To recap: this is not a precursor. The move protects all other Irish sports from the ravages of Big East reconfiguration.
Also, it would be shocking if Notre Dame has to fulfill the Big East’s 27-month exit timetable. Syracuse and Pittsburgh negotiated earlier departures.
•Are these rankings for football teams or truck stops? Ken Massey’s early season Bowl Championship Series algorithms are always good for a few laughs. His top five this week: Louisiana Monroe, Iowa State, Arkansas, Iowa and Tulsa. Yes, Massey’s rankings are used in the BCS formula, but it’s still way too early to call the cops.
•Sacramento State’s challenge, after toppling Colorado, its second Pac-12 victim in two years, is avoiding a letdown. The Hornets followed last year’s opening win at Oregon State with consecutive losses to Southern Utah and Weber State. Sacramento State, a week after defeating Colorado in Boulder, plays host to Northern Colorado this week. Sacramento State made $910,000 for the two Pac-12 games but Athletic Director Terry Wanless told the State Hornet he would never put his players at risk against superior opponents. “We will not play Alabama and we will not play Oregon,” he said. We’re sure that went over well in Corvallis.
•Three Pac-12 schools — UCLA, Oregon State and Arizona — recorded wins last weekend over AP top 25 opponents. The last time that happened was Jan. 1, 1985, when UCLA, USC and Washington all defeated ranked opponents in bowl games.
•Washington hosting Portland State this week reminds us how the Huskies used to be part of a small fraternity of major schools that had never played an FCS (1-AA) opponent. Washington ended the streak last year against Eastern Washington. And that leaves three: USC, UCLA and Notre Dame.
•Central Florida Coach George O’Leary, on defeat. “I remember every one of them in 44 years. Name the game and I can tell you what happened.”