Yesterday, an interesting bit of information came across Twitter -- information that most of us (maybe all of us) hadn't really heard before. From the always-reliable McSources:
ACC coaches want Notre Dame to join a league. If ND joins a league before 2027, its contractually bound to join ACC— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 28, 2015
It's timely to talk about it since a lot of folks around college football HAVE really been annoyed at Notre Dame lately (more so than usual), with regard to their cushy, independent situation. What we didn't know, however, was the bit about Notre Dame being locked into the ACC should they choose to join a conference before 2027.
For those who forgot all of the stupid conference realignment terminology, the ACC was seen as more vulnerable than other leagues for a spell because they just had a large exit fee, not a grant-of-rights that gives media revenues to the conference to dole out to member schools -- instead of just the schools. Notre Dame joining pretty much ended that talk, and now this information sets that in stone, as no school would have much drive to leave the ACC with Notre Dame in the fold.
So IS Notre Dame going to join the ACC full-time at some point? I'd argue yes, especially if they're shut out of the College Football Playoff for conference champions once or twice. But then that brings up the important question of who the ACC would bring in with Notre Dame to balance out an unwieldy, 16-team league. This is the part where UConn fans salivate, before crumbling in a heap.
The answer is Texas.
You may remember the then-ridiculous thought around Texas (along with Texas Tech) leaving the Big 12 for the ACC back in 2011. Well, the recent murmurs from Oklahoma may have breathed some new life into them, at least as far as the Longhorns are concerned. From Frank the Tank:
"In a perfect world for Texas (as described to me by my Big 12 guy), they would want to join the ACC as full members with… wait for it… Notre Dame. Apparently, the UT people are convinced that the new College Football Playoff system will eventually drive the Irish to join a conference and Texas wants to be right alongside them."
Funny enough, we'd mentioned this in our internal staff Slack room yesterday, and --- ta da! -- here it is with a little more weight behind it. In fact, even more weight behind it than there was back in 2011. But it gets even more extensive, apparently:
"In turn, UT would also have Oklahoma and Kansas follow along to create an 18-school ACC behemoth. Texas would be fine with the same type of move to the Big Ten (although Notre Dame is contractually obligated to join the ACC if it chooses to drop independence until 2027, which would seemingly make that prospect impossible)."
... Could you imagine?
The caveat with all of this is that it's far from a certainty and should still be filed as a longshot at best. But when you look at what Texas, Notre Dame and the ACC each respectively want, this doesn't seem like that implausible of a long-game to play. The ACC already possesses four (Louisville, North Carolina, Syracuse, Duke) of the nine most valuable basketball programs in the country. They currently have no programs on the top 20 list for football. Adding Notre Dame and Texas immediately change the latter list (two of the top five, in that case) -- three of the top 10 if you include Oklahoma too. And the addition of Kansas in basketball would make for five of the country's nine most valuable basketball programs. Suddenly, the ACC goes from a questionable entity in the power conference conversation to arguably its biggest player of all.
Do we want this, though? From a financial perspective, yes. Syracuse stands to gain even more money from the simple additions of Notre Dame and Texas -- let alone the windfall that Oklahoma and Kansas could collectively result in. But at the same time, adding three large, land-grant universities could be a death-knell for competitiveness (in particular in football) for the Orange, along with Wake Forest, Boston College, Miami and Duke. That's alarmist, in some ways, of course. But there's that scary bit of realism that also puts a slight bit of worry in you too.
Again, this is conceptual at best right now. But it's a future worth keeping an eye out for. We could very well be closing in on a stunning coup for the ACC to suddenly become college sports' top dog within the next decade or so.