According to Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, his football team's arrangement with the ACC benefits the school's other sports more than it does the football team.
Kelly was on Bruce Feldman's Fox Sports podcast, and was asked about scheduling and Kelly's recent comments about playing Michigan and Michigan State.
"All I can do is voice my – as a football coach, and especially one that's been in the Midwest, I love the ability to play Michigan and Michigan State and the tradition of it, but the reality of it is for our athletic department to enter into the agreement with the ACC we have to give up a little bit from a football perspective relative to scheduling. And to make our athletic department whole, relative to soccer and lacrosse and basketball, that ACC agreement was absolutely crucial for our athletic teams."
"Football had to give up a little bit, relative to flexibility and scheduling by taking on with the ACC. Therefore, it's put us in a very difficult situation scheduling and unfortunately it's taken some of the schools like a Michigan and Michigan State, off our schedule. Because we're going to keep Navy, we're going to keep Stanford and we're going to keep USC. Those three schools are not coming off and those are etched in stone. So now, add your ACC schools with those three schools and you're really limited as to where you can go."
Notre Dame entered into a football scheduling agreement with the ACC in 2012 after it decided to leave the Big East for all other sports and join the conference. While the football team remained as an independent, it plays five games a year against the ACC starting in 2014. Added up with the three games Kelly mentioned, and that's eight games a year already taken on Notre Dame's schedule.
Michigan plays Notre Dame for the final (scheduled) time this season and the Irish don't play Michigan State until a two-year resumption of the series beginning in 2017.
But is Notre Dame's football program really sacrificing something in the arrangement, despite what Kelly says? It's still a fair question.
With the aforementioned eight games taken, it leaves four to be scheduled, so it's not impossible to have Michigan and Michigan State on a future schedule at the same time with a SEC team, which Kelly desires to have as well.
Would it leave one open game? Yes. Does it make for the potential of one of the toughest schedules in the country? Yes. But's still not impossible if keeping both Michigan and Michigan State on schedules in the future was a huge priority.
With the ACC agreement, it doesn't look like it is. What would be one of the primary benefits for the football team of that arrangement? Recruiting, as it puts the Irish in semi-regularly scheduled games in the East and Southeast and in front of a lot of recruits it normally wouldn't play near.
It's a big benefit to the series with Texas that starts in 2015. After hosting the Longhorns that season, Notre Dame will play twice in Texas in 2016; once in Austin to start the year and another time against Army at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Last season, Notre Dame played Arizona State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Kelly indirectly referenced the recruiting advantages the ACC agreement brings to the football team when the subject of scheduling a SEC team in the future came up. The Irish play at defending BCS Champion Florida State on October 18.
"No, I don't think that's something that's too hard. I think one of our wishes, (athletic director Jack Swarbrick) and I, is that we want to get an SEC team on our schedule. Of course we've got a home-and-home with Texas, we're going to obviously play that one out and then I think discussions have been to then include an SEC opponent. And we want one that we feel makes sense, that has a very good geographical draw for us in the SEC and if you look around, we're in Florida already with Florida State so I think you could probably figure out pretty easily what SEC would be the best draw for us as it relates to recruiting and an alumni base."
If the school thinks the appearances in non-upper Midwest states do more for Notre Dame's national cachet than staying in the same region does, then the university is justified in putting the ACC agreement ahead of rivalries against nearby schools. Notre Dame doesn't need to do any convincing in its back yard. In SEC, ACC and Big 12 country, it's a different story.
Does it benefit Notre Dame to keep the two Big Ten schools around? Outside of a tough schedule, there's little drawback if the school deems it feasible But with the ACC arrangement and the desire to expand Notre Dame's national footprint, the rivalries are taking at least a temporary back seat. And the football team may not really be sacrificing anything at all.
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