In making their announced move to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the University of Notre Dame find themselves in a, potentially, awkward situation.
It has been a long-discussed topic, the idea of placing the university into a conference to gain a better foothold on a National Championship title run. Throughout history, the university has maintained its independence, citing its tradition and legacy as predetermined factors in their decision-making. The ill-fated attempts by the B1G and subsequent spurning by the "Fighting Irish" are well documented, making the ACC partnership in all sports except football and hockey a head-cocking conundrum.
With the move, the Irish agreed to meet five ACC teams on its ensuing football schedules, meaning that some, if not all, of the university's long-time B1G rivalries could possibly be dropped, in order to facilitate. Notre Dame didn't wait long to drop the first hammer.
Prior to their prime-time victory over the University of Michigan on Saturday, September 22, a formal letter was given to Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon, announcing that Notre Dame would forgo the remaining games against the Wolverines, after the 2013 season. In doing so, the Irish close out a storied chapter with a bitter rival… or did they?
In an official release by NBC Sports, the Irish/Wolverine meeting was watched by 6.4 million viewers, easily making it the most-watched prime-time Notre Dame game in the network's five-game history. There has to be some hidden motivation as to why the Irish would skip out on Michigan, but leave teams like Air Force and Navy, which would serve as little assistance in their "strength of schedule" hunt.
Michigan, like many schools in the BCS, is rebuilding under the tenure of Brady Hoke. However, in recent years, the emergence of Michigan State as a once-again football powerhouse leads on to speculate that the Irish fancy their longer-held rivalry with the Spartans as more of a focus than on Michigan. That being said, it would not be out of reason to see the hammer fall on that rivalry, as well as the rest of their B1G conference foes, including Purdue. This does not mean, however, that they cannot re-start the rivalry in the future, once the ACC schedule is hashed out.
The merger, though it does open the door for Notre Dame to become eligible for ACC-optioned bowl bids, severely hurts not only their strength of schedule, but also limits their ability in garnering enough sentiment to be final-four worthy in the new playoff format beginning in 2014.
Certainly, the week of changes has brought about much discussion surrounding the good, and bad, of Notre Dame's involvement with the ACC. What remains to be told, however, is how worthwhile the endeavor will be in helping Notre Dame return to glory. In this fan's eyes, the deal leaves far more to be desired, as opposed to other directions the university could have gone.
The author, D. Benjamin Satkowiak, is a successful entrepreneur and published, freelance author, who has tailored works on various sports, health and fitness topics. He currently serves as a Yahoo! Contributor Network "Featured Contributor" and writes on the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions, Great Lakes Loons and Notre Dame football.