SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 17: Notre Dame Stadium is seen while the Notre Dame Fighting Irish play the Michigan State Spartans during the first half September 17, 2011at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Michigan State 31-13. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
So we've all know about Notre Dame joining the ACC for all sports besides football, with the caveat that they will play five ACC teams in football every year. But what does it mean?
-In my opinion, this is just the first step in phasing Notre Dame into the ACC as a full-everything member. It may not be for five, 15, 25 years from now, but eventually the college football landscape will force Notre Dame to put their football program in a conference, and now, that conference will be the ACC. This step will appease the alumni for a few years, get them acquainted with ACC football, sell out a few ACC stadiums every year, and most importantly for Notre Dame, rescue the rest of their athletic department from having to go play Memphis in things.
This also helps Notre Dame manage the mess that would have occurred if they were still fully independent in the event that the major conferences all move to nine game schedules.
-Despite a history with Pitt, Miami, and Boston College, it sounds like the five teams that Notre Dame plays will rotate, so we'll being seeing the Irish every three years. I have no idea how this effects the four game series we already have set up with them (2014-2017, two games in South Bend, two in Metlife) will be effected, as I doubt Syracuse gets to play them four years in a row, but don't hold your breath on those Metlife games being moved to Syracuse, unfortunately.
-The $50 million buyout is probably the biggest thing for Syracuse, and the other ACC members. This almost assures that Florida State, Clemson, Miami et al are in this for the long haul. I can't imagine any of those schools willingly giving up over two years worth of athletics profits to leave.
-The ACC can now renegotiate with ESPN again. That $17-20 mm figure that was tossed around will probably move up another few million. And that's without Notre Dame football, which will still be with NBC until their contract expires in 2015. While they could always renew with NBC, I think it is more likely that ESPN gobbles up Notre Dame football. This may be a period where Notre Dame considers moving to the ACC as a full member.
Notre Dame's NBC contract pays the school a reported $15 million a year. If they do join for football eventually, and their revenue is shared, as I can't imagine the ACC would allow them to get a side deal if/when they fully commit, imagine what kind of windfall that will be for the conference.
-While this puts the ACC at 15 members for basketball, I don't see them expanding the conference with a basketball only member. The hope is that Notre Dame joins for football; by taking a basketball-only, the ACC basically concedes to Notre Dame that it can do whatever it wants with football for as long as it wants. I fully expect the ACC to make do with 15 for basketball until it needs a 16th football member. Sorry Georgetown.
-Could we see the 15 teams broken into three, five team pods? This is just my own personal speculation, as nothing has been said about this by any news source, but playing four podmates twice each, plus each other team once would equal an 18 game ACC schedule. This could also help preserve rivalries, which is a big deal to the ACC. I'm thinking Syracuse/Pitt/BC/ND/Maryland, Duke/UNC/Wake/NCSt/UVA, and Miami/FSU/Clemson/VT/GT...
-If the ACC does expand with another football member, I'd be surprised if it came down to anyone but UConn and Rutgers. The ACC isn't looking to venture outside of it's geographical footprint too much (Notre Dame might be in Indiana, but it is an eastern school in identity), and while Louisville has the best available athletic program, the ACC seems pretty steadfast on not bringing in weak academic schools. Florida State and NC State are the floor for ACC academics, and Louisville is still a ways below them. UConn would be my choice because they have a much better overall athletic department than Rutgers.
-Notre Dame joining for Lacrosse allows the ACC to hold a legitimate tournament, and have an automatic bid for the NCAAs (this is mostly a formality). This tournament is going to be absurdity every spring.
I'm not a huge fan of partial membership, but this agreement binds Notre Dame closer to the ACC than they ever were to the Big East, and almost all signs point to Notre Dame football eventually making the jump. This is an incredible move for a conference that was still looking to solidify itself. Once again, John Swofford is on top of his game in conference expansion.