Notre Dame is joining the Atlantic Coast Conference for all sports except football. But the Irish are giving the ACC a bail-out of sorts, playing five games a year against league teams, a move expected to lead to an enhanced television contract for the league.
“This is indeed a monumental day in the history of our league,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said during a press conference in Chapel Hill, N.C., to announce the move.
Notre Dame currently expects to join the ACC for the 2014-15 season, but athletic director Jack Swarbrick said there could be talks with the Big East to accelerate that. The Big East reportedly expects Notre Dame to pay a $5 million exit fee and give 27 months notice before leaving.
Notre Dame will become the league’s 15th member overall, including Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which leave the Big East for the ACC next season.
“This is the best athletic conference in the country and we will only make it better,” Swarbrick said.
The addition of the Fighting Irish also paved the way for the ACC presidents to approve a $50 million exit fee from league, a move designed to bring stability to the conference.
Notre Dame, the biggest wild card in the conference realignment shuffle, will not be eligible for the ACC’s BCS bowl berth but will be included in the league’s non-BCS deals. As long as the Irish rank higher in the BCS standings or are within one victory of an ACC team, they can be selected over the ACC team for any of the league’s bowl tie-ins.
The Irish keep their independent status in football and maintain their lucrative television deal with NBC. Swofford said initial discussions have already begun between the ACC and ESPN to “enhance” the television contract in light of Notre Dame’s presence.
“It really says a lot that for a program like Notre Dame to want to come,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “I’m sure they have their pick of conferences. For them to choose the ACC is a great thing.”
On the basketball side, the ACC will have 15 teams now. Swofford does not plan to add anymore teams, calling adding a 16th member “illogical.”
Notre Dame had been in the Big East for its sports other than football. Big East commissioner Mike Aresco released a statement after being informed the Irish were ACC-bound.
“Notre Dame has been a valued member of the Big East conference and we wish them success in the future,” Aresco said. “However, Notre Dame’s departure does not change our plans. We have prestigious institutions that are excited to be a part of the Big East.”
Swarbrick said it will be up to the ACC if the Irish continue their annual series with Boston College. He said, under the agreement, Notre Dame will provide five dates to play ACC opponents and the league will decide how to fill them.
Swofford said every team in the league will be in the rotation to play Notre Dame, either at home or in South Bend.
There are plenty of ACC coaches and teams familiar with playing against Notre Dame.
This season, it’s playing Boston College, Miami and Wake Forest, as well as Pittsburgh, which joins the ACC next year.
“I think it’s tremendous for our league,” BC coach Frank Spaziani said. “We play them and now to be playing them in other sports, it’s very valuable. It’s a marquee brand.” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson saw Notre Dame annually when he was at Navy.
“Certainly Notre Dame is a storied program with a lot of rich history and tradition,” Johnson said. “You’re going to get a national reputation team, a quality opponent.”
Notre Dame also has long-standing rivalries with USC, Stanford, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and Navy. Swarbrick said the school places a high priority on continuing to play games on the West Coast and maintaining its tradition of playing Navy.
It’s unclear what would happen to the Irish’s Big Ten rivalries.
From the Richmond Times Dispatch today.