Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Oh, Notre Dame ...

So ... Notre Dame is headed to the ACC for everything except football:
Notre Dame is moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference in every sport except football, where the Fighting Irish will maintain their status as an independent.

The school's president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, and athletic director Jack Swarbrick joined ACC commissioner John Swofford and three ACC presidents for a news conference Wednesday announcing the Irish's move from the Big East.
Swell. Why is this relevant? Because the lede isn't entirely accurate; it should read "Notre Dame is moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference for everything except football 58.3 percent of football season." 

Buried a couple grafs down is this sentence that kinda changes everything in terms of ND's schedule:
Although they will remain independent in football, the Fighting Irish will play five games annually against ACC schools.

That's a not-insignificant number of games seeing as how it's more than half a typical eight- or nine-game conference schedule. In other words, the thing about remaining independent is only true in a sense that Notre Dame isn't nominally a member of the ACC; they basically are, though, since they (a) play most of a conference schedule and (b) have access to the non-ACC spot in the Orange Bowl and any of the ACC's spots in the non-BCS bowls. The difference between Notre Dame and (insert ACC team here) will be basically three conference games a year.

Upshot: Notre Dame gets basically all the benefits of full ACC membership but with a cherry-picked schedule that allows for that "maintaining a national brand" thing that eliminated the possibility of Big Ten membership back in '99 and has continued to do so ever since.

I've always been pretty neutral about whether joining a conference (for football) would be beneficial but have always assumed that it would be done only as an acknowledgement of absolute necessity due to a playoff requirement or financial gap or whatever. Neither of those things is involved here, though; money actually isn't a factor at all since the ACC teams will reportedly be getting about $18 million a year overall and Notre Dame will be getting "about 20 percent" of that amount for its Olympic sports (roughly $3.6 million) plus its $15 million a year from NBC, which equals $18.6 million. The difference between that and whatever Notre Dame is making now ($15 million plus the Big East's non-football payout of around $1.5 million, pending ongoing negotiations) will be negligible.

The reason is as simple as the paragraph right above the last one: Notre Dame gets the benefits of being an ACC football member (without actually being one) and an increase in relevance/competition for its Olympic sports in the ACC (as compared to the Big East, which will be awful in everything other than basketball and won't be what it was even in basketball without Syracuse and Pitt).

The ACC benefits only via affiliation; any marginal bump in TV revenue will mostly be negated by having an extra school to distribute that money to and having to coordinate a 15-team schedule in basketball (and everything else other than football). That's not a totally meaningless benefit, though, seeing as how the ACC hasn't had a nationally relevant football team at the end of the season since ... ummm ... Florida State in 1999? Yeah. Srsly. Every ACC champ since then has had at least two losses and been somewhere way outside the national title discussion. Getting people of any age/ethnic origin/religious affiliation watching would represent an improvement. In that regard, there's not really a downside for the ACC.

The downside for Notre Dame is this:
The commitment to five ACC games in football likely will mean some changes for the Irish's football schedule.

Notre Dame expects to continue to play USC, Stanford and Navy, but its traditional games against Big Ten opponents Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue are in jeopardy, a source told Schad.
Guh. I'm not saying this as a Michigan fan but as someone who appreciates history/tradition/whatnot: Notre Dame-Michigan and Notre Dame-Michigan State are way more interesting than Notre Dame-Virginia and Notre Dame-Maryland and Notre Dame-any ACC school other than maybe Florida State or Miami. I mean ...

... sigh. I hate that those games are probably going away so Notre Dame can play Syracuse in lacrosse (not really but kind of).

It's within the realm of possibility that one or both series could continue on a sporadic basis, I guess, but it's unlikely since most of the Notre Dame-ACC games are gonna have to be crammed into the first half of the season (conference games fill most of each ACC team's schedule from the end of September through the end of the year), which combined with the USC/Stanford games will leave most of ND's openings in October, right in the middle of Big Ten play. I'm not holding my breath; don't be surprised if the 2017 Michigan-Notre Dame game is the last one for a while.

That's lame for Notre Dame (fewer legitimately interesting games that play up the tradition angle, which has been one of ND's few redeeming qualities for the last decade) and Michigan and pretty much everybody except the middle-tier ACC teams that get a little more national exposure. And who cares about them, anyway?


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