This week, the University of Notre Dame made what could be a huge decision for the school as well as for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) when they announced their sports programs will move to the North Carolina based ACC (source - Washington Post). The exact date they would move hasn't been agreed upon yet but technically, this move is for the 2014-2015 school year. The football team will remain independent … well, kinda, sort of.
Notre Dame could make the move as soon as next season but they would have to negotiate a buyout of some sorts because their non-football sports play in the Big East Conference - that league requires a 27-month hold before they can release them from their tie-in. A buyout is likely.
The new move also means the Fighting Irish football squad will play a minimum of five football games against other ACC schools every year. So the football team sort of joins a conference without really joining a conference. They are included in the ACC's bowl rotation, which will be nicer for Notre Dame as in the past, they had a wait-and-see situation with bowls.
USC - Notre Dame
Obviously, several long-established football relationships with other schools will be ended in some form or fashion. But the biggest intersectional rivalry in the country - with the University of Southern California Trojans - will continue. The USC Trojans and Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been playing since the days of Howard Jones and Knute Rockne. Along with the Trojans, in a peculiar twist of sorts, the Irish will essentially keep two other games on their current schedule: Navy and Stanford.
Irish Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said this about who they would continue to play: "We're going to keep some traditional rivals and we're going to get around the country. We're still going to be in California every year and we're still going to find a way to get into the Southwest. And, of course, this gives us a great East Coast footprint and we want to make sure we keep a Midwest presence, too. We'll meet our mission and make sure Notre Dame is playing everywhere in the country."
But the ACC?
As a fan, I always thought the preferred conference for the Fighting Irish was the Big Ten, what with the natural rivalries and geographic proximity they share. In-turn, I didn't really see the ACC as a viable alternative because, well, the ACC isn't exactly a powerhouse conference in football. On the other hand, the ACC is certainly a major player as far as basketball and to some extent baseball are concerned.
So now, Big Ten schools such as Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State may no longer be on the Notre Dame schedule - at least on a regular basis.
Keeping Navy on the schedule makes some sense insofar as the academy has a national presence like the Irish along with a long-standing rivalry. However, keeping Stanford when they already have USC as a West Coast presence is a bit unusual - except, if you consider Notre Dame can schedule USC and Stanford so the Irish come to California every year, then this makes more sense recruiting-wise. California produces more big time prospects than any other state.
The winner is ...
The biggest winner in this announcement is the ACC. They add the Fighting Irish plus several schools who likely would never have played Notre Dame, now have the opportunity. Remember, the Fighting Irish are as a big a draw as any school in the country. The ACC hasn't had a lot of prestige and notoriety recently in football and this helps change that situation … or at least that is what would be expected.
The biggest loser as I see it? The Big East Conference is on a thin ice again or at the very least, on a slippery surface. This move signals more weakness for a conference that had to recruit western schools, just to stay relevant.
Why the Fighting Irish made the move may be another story. Remember, Notre Dame has never won a BCS game and they haven't won a national championship in three decades. Independence at this point isn't working.
College realignment continues to rear its ugly head and I'm not sure this does anything to quell more movement. The move Notre Dame made is the big news right now in college football and may signal an altering football landscape that will persist.
Sources - University of Notre Dame
Daryle lived in Los Angeles Ca. most of his life and has been a longtime fan of USC and the Pac-12, having closely followed the Trojans since he was just a youngster. Fight On!