Football First

Notre Dame's move to the Athletic Coast Conference benefits its Olympic sports programs across the board. It's an even bigger boon to the football program's independence and national footprint.

For at least a day if not the rest of this, the second week in September, the college sports universe belonged to Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick. His completed negotiations with Athletic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford and the marriage of Notre Dame to the ACC conference shelved all potential story leads, angles, and minutia that defines mid-week media during football season.

But it was University president Reverend John Jenkins that spoke for the majority of lrish fans with his opening comments at today's press conference held in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

"I want to personally thank Chancellor (Holden) Thorpe, commissioner John Swofford, president Nathan Hatch, president Jim Barker, and all the ACC presidents for allowing us to continue traditions in football that go back nearly a century while being a part of this great conference."

Yes, Notre Dame's basketball teams, soccer team, baseball team, et al will move to the ACC. And for the program's more successful but secondary sports such as men's and women's basketball, rivals Connecticut, Georgetown, and Louisville have given way to the likes of Duke, North Carolina, and Florida State. (As for fellow new ACC entrants Syracuse and Pittsburgh, both formerly foes in Big East competition, we barely missed ya.)

But of national relevance and upmost importance is Notre Dame's big toe in the ACC waters via its football program.

Five games per season, one with each ACC school over a three-year period, repeated as such thereafter.

"The idea is we will move through the entire membership and in a perfect world each ACC team would play Notre Dame either at home or away at least once in every three year period," explained Swofford. "Notre Dame already has some games scheduled against ACC opponents. We need to take a look at that and whether maintaining these contractual games is the right and best thing to do before we get into the ultimate rotation that we would have."

There'll be adjustments among Notre Dame's regularly scheduled foes, but nothing drastic, as mini-rivals Pittsburgh and Boston College -- not to mention former foil Miami -- become "conference" foes while USC, Navy, and it appears, Stanford, or at least Stanford's geographical footprint, remain a high priority.

"Its hard to get into too much detail before we work through it, but its important to us to get out to the West Coast, annually, and as everyone close to Notre Dame knows, the tradition of playing Navy is very deep and has important roots for the University," said Swarbrick. "Those are building blocks, beyond that we'll have to work through it over time."

As for annual and much-anticipated games vs. Big 10 rivals Michigan, and Michigan State, a pair of openings already exists in both series over the next eight years; they'll receive high priority but likely hit semi-annual basis over the following decade. The post-World War II continuous matchup with Purdue is likely to remain, leaving room for three games separate from the five conference contests and rivalries noted above.

Previous intermittent matchups vs. the likes of BYU and Air Force will become rare. Efforts to keep the likes of Texas and Oklahoma interspersed with the occasional goodwill game (and schedule break) against Army would suffice and keep independent traditions intact.

"Our goal is to implement the football scheduling portion of this in 2014," said Swarbrick. "One of the things that gives us an opportunity to do that is we already have in some of those years four ACC games booked. Either by retaining those games or using those slots, its up to the ACC as to how they want to do that. It gives us a great start.

"We haven't worked through the details as to how we'll get this done. Our obligation to the conference is to find five dates and make them available. John and the conference will figure out who those opponents are on those dates so we'll work with the schools with whom we already have relationships. We'll work on freeing up those dates and making them available to the ACC."

A four-game agreement would have constituted highway robbery by Notre Dame, so five it is. Games against Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Miami are appealing to the majority Irish fans. Games in the New Meadowlands vs. Syracuse plus the occasional trip to Raleigh, College Park, Winston-Salem, and Durham are part of the price of admission, er...partial admission.

Which begs the question: What do you call it when you're all in without being in at all?

Independent, of course.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories