There's no question who the biggest winner is in Notre Dame's decision to move its non-football sports to the ACC.
Without a doubt, it's the Irish themselves.
From a football perspective, Notre Dame remains independent and keeps its national TV deal with NBC while making scheduling easier in the future. Other conferences going to nine-game league schedules made it more difficult for the Irish to find quality opponents in October and November, but playing five games a year against ACC opponents mitigates those concerns.
From a basketball perspective, Notre Dame joins what should become the nation's most powerful league without having to give up its Northeast recruiting footprint. The Irish have enjoyed great success under coach Mike Brey and his predecessors recruiting in the New York area and in the D.C. area. That will be significantly easier to maintain with the ACC's new Northeast presence than it would have had Notre Dame gone to the Big 12.
As with any move in conference realignment, there are ripple effects that impact other schools and other leagues. Here's a look at some of the other winners and losers from Notre Dame's blockbuster decision:
Winner: ACC Basketball
Notre Dame hoops isn't as significant an addition as Syracuse or Pittsburgh, but the Irish are no slouches either. This is a steady program under coach Brey that has gone to five NCAA tournaments in six seasons and finished in the top three of the Big East the past two years. Granted the Irish have done little in the NCAA tournament during that time span, but they'll still add depth to a league that will soon be college basketball's most formidable again after several years of being North Carolina, Duke and little else.
Loser: Big East Basketball
Remember way back in 2010 when the Big East was college basketball's juggernaut? Those days are long gone. The Big East has now lost Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to the ACC and West Virginia to the Big 12, a devastating exodus, albeit not the death knell some have proclaimed it to be. The good news for the Big East is that the ACC does not appear intent on adding a 16th basketball member for now. If that changes in the future, the most likely possibilities are probably UConn, Louisville or Georgetown.
Winner: ACC Football
While adding Notre Dame as an actual league member would have been the best-case scenario for the ACC, having the Irish play five football games a year against ACC teams is a great consolation prize. That means every ACC team will play Notre Dame about once every 2 1/2 years and host the Irish once every five. Every football game against Notre Dame is marquee national TV game for ACC programs and every visit from the Irish is very likely a guaranteed sellout.
Loser: Notre Dame's annual Big Ten football opponents
It looks less and less likely Notre Dame football will continue to annually face Big Ten foes Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue once the Irish have five ACC programs on their schedule each year. The Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton tweeted Wednesday he expects the Irish to protect cross-country rivalry games with USC, Stanford and Navy. Since that leaves only four holes on the schedule and Notre Dame will surely want some flexibility in football scheduling each year, the most likely scenario would be a rotation among those Big Ten opponents. Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan don't need Notre Dame on their schedules to thrive, but that's still a marquee, revenue-driving game for each of them.
Even though the addition of Notre Dame gives the ACC an unwieldy 15 members for basketball, commissioner John Swofford says the league does not intend to add another school to get to an even 16. That means Swofford is essentially paddling away in the last available life raft that could have helped UConn escape the floundering Big East. The Huskies have made it no secret they wanted to follow Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC, but that's not an option right now. And even if the ACC changes its mind in the future and seeks a 16th member, Louisville, Rutgers, Georgetown and Villanova are all just as strong possibilities as UConn.
Loser: Big 12
Notre Dame reportedly had also been in negotiations with the Big 12, so it's a blow to the league that the Irish ultimately chose the ACC. Worse yet, the news that the ACC upped its exit fee for members to $50 million may put any Big 12 expansion hopes on hold for the foreseeable future. Florida State and Clemson reportedly were expansion possibilities for the Big 12, but would either of them pay that kind of penalty to leave the ACC? Probably not, especially when their ACC TV deals should get even sweeter with the partial addition of the Irish. That makes Louisville maybe the best potential option for the Big 12 if it were to decide to add members in the near future.
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