By Brian Hamilton, Chicago Tribune –
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame will join the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports except football and hockey, both the league and the school announced Wednesday.
Football will remain independent and hockey will join Hockey East for the 2013-14 season. All other Notre Dame sports are expected to depart the Big East and join the ACC. The Chicago Tribune, ESPN and SI.com reported the move earlier Wednesday.
Notre Dame hopes to join the ACC for the 2013-14 season, according to a school source, but various contract obstacles related to the Big East departure will determine if that becomes reality. There are separate agreements in place for Big East football and non-football schools, according to a source, that must be squared with the league’s bylaws.
A Big East spokesman confirmed that the bylaws dictate Notre Dame pay a $5 million exit fee and give 27 months notice before departing. But Notre Dame could negotiate an earlier exit, as Syracuse and Pittsburgh both did earlier this year for their moves to the ACC.
“We have monitored the changing conference landscape for many months and have concluded that moving to the ACC is the best course of action for us,” athletics director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement.
“This will enable us to maintain our historic independence in football, join in the ACC’s non-BCS bowl package and provide a new and extremely competitive home for our other sports. We are immensely grateful to the members of the Big East, which has been a wonderful home for us the past 17 years.”
Notre Dame has been a member of the Big East in all sports except football and hockey since 1995. Under the new agreement with the ACC, Notre Dame is expected to play five football games per year against league schools.
The Irish also will endeavor to protect its football rivalry games—specifically, Navy, Southern California and Stanford. As for long-running series against Big Ten foes, the Irish may rotate those opponents on a yearly basis.
“The ACC is composed of some of the most highly respected universities in the country, and we at Notre Dame look forward to joining them,” Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins said in a statement.
“With a mix of institutions — many of which are also private, similar to Notre Dame in size, and committed to excellence in research and undergraduate education — the ACC is an exceptionally good fit for us academically, as well as athletically.”
It is a move that has been in the works for quite some time and indeed makes sense for Notre Dame, given how Big East basketball has been stripped down with the departures of Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
Perhaps more importantly, the ACC helps Notre Dame find secure footing in its football schedules as an independent and gives the Irish that access to the ACC’s postseason bowl agreements, whatever they turn out to be—solving the issue of where the football team ends up if it doesn’t earn a bid in college football’s new playoff system.
While speculation swirled that Notre Dame might look to the Big 12 and that the ACC wouldn’t accept Notre Dame as a non-football playing member, that Big 12 chatter now looks like a savvy leverage ploy.
With schools such as Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia and North Carolina, the ACC offers Notre Dame a much better academic and personality fit from a university standpoint than either the Big 12 or the Big Ten would—a component that Jenkins alluded to which is no small matter in these types of moves.
Indeed, the ACC’s news release boasted that the addition of Notre Dame means it has “11 institutions ranked among the top 58 in the 2013 U.S. News & World Report survey of ‘America’s Best Colleges.’”
Meanwhile, in order to secure its own future, the ACC Council of Presidents voted to increase the conference exit fees to “three times the annual operating budget”—a figure that the league says currently equates to more than $50 million.
Also, NBC—which broadcasts Irish home football games—is on board with the move to the ACC, a source confirmed.