There is such thing as a win-win in college athletics.
Notre Dame and the ACC have enjoyed one since partnering four years ago and linking the past two football seasons. The mutually beneficial relationship helped the league stabilize during the tornado of conference realignment and helped Notre Dame stay independent in football. It helped the ACC grow revenue by 30 percent per its tax returns the year after Notre Dame joined. It also helped the league form a lucrative conference network, which will launch in 2019.
When it does, Notre Dame will get a full share according to ACC commissioner John Swofford. According to the Daily Press, that share will net Notre Dame $5-to-8 million depending on the launch.
Do the Irish deserve it? It’s hard to argue against it in financial terms.
For starters, Notre Dame has driven NCAA Tournament shares for the league with back-to-back Elite 8 runs. Those units paid by television revenue are worth in excess of $250,000 each. Mike Brey’s program has amassed eight in the past two years for the league.
With Notre Dame part of the success story, the ACC has set back-to-back league records for NCAA Tournament wins the past two seasons.
And yet when it comes to football and the mega media rights money that comes to the ACC, Notre Dame still gets a 20 percent share from the league. But the Irish have been a boon for the conference there too, even at just five scheduled games annually.
According to the Daily Press, Notre Dame earned $6.2 million from ACC football rights for the 2014-15 season. The league’s other 15 programs earned $26.21 million on average, reportedly. Notre Dame does pocket in excess of $15 million annually from its NBC contract that offsets that difference. That contract runs through the 2025 season, at which point the ACC Network will have been on air for six years.
Notre Dame’s impact on the league isn’t limited to media rights, however. The Irish sell tickets in a way no league opponent can match, unless it’s Florida State hosting Clemson or vice versa.
The Irish played three true road games against ACC opponents last season. Its loss at Clemson came 684 tickets sold short of the gate for the Florida State game but topped the Tigers’ other five home games. But Notre Dame crushed the gate at Virginia and Pittsburgh, which has been the norm for most ACC opponents even before the Irish linked with the league.
Notre Dame’s win at Virginia drew 58,200, a total of 17,401 higher than the average Virginia home game when Notre Dame wasn’t involved. At Pittsburgh, Notre Dame drew 68,400 to Heinz Field. That’s 24,300 higher on average than the Panthers’ other five home games.
During Notre Dame’s first football season in the ACC partnership, Syracuse “hosted” the Irish at MetLife Stadium outside New York City. That game drew 76,802. The Orange’s four home games at the Carrier Dome averaged 40,447. That difference in tickets sold nearly amounts to a bonus home game of gate receipts for Syracuse.
Notre Dame will face Syracuse at MetLife again this season. When a narrative pops up about the Irish not wanting to play the Orange on campus, remember the financial impact on that athletic department from taking the game to New York City.
So as the ACC moves forward with its new network – digital the next three years and a full cable channel after that – Notre Dame will get a full piece of that pie. But considering the Irish helped deliver the ingredients, the altered agreement feels about right for the conference and its most interesting partial-member.