It appears that some of the outside pressure for Notre Dame football to join a conference got the university sweating a bit.
But not enough to completely join a conference.
The football program will remain independent for the time being, while every other Notre Dame athletic team will now compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), according to Zach Dillard of FOX Sports.
Many will be pleased with Notre Dame’s attempt to move forward and inch closer to finally picking a conference that the gridiron gang can call home. Really, the Irish have taken the easy way out….again, as this is essentially just a superficial attempt to quiet those who say Notre Dame is too scared to join a conference.
The Irish will play five ACC conference games annually to keep the commissioner happy and reap the benefits of joining a major athletic conference without placing its football team in harm’s way of “losing” conference championships.
Notre Dame has realized that their tradition, or lack thereof the past 20 years, is getting them nowhere, specifically on the recruiting front. By joining the ACC, the Golden Domers will receive more exposure in states like Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, hoping that more young athletes will gain interest in heading to South Bend.
I won’t knock the Irish for joining the ACC as many have (at least via my Twitter feed). The ACC is a competitive conference in every single sport. Though football may not be the strongest, the Irish will still have to play teams like Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Clemson on a somewhat regular basis.
It seems to me that Notre Dame wants to dip its toe into the water before making the decision on whether or not they want to jump into the conference pool.
For a team that has been independent for as long as Notre Dame has been, it makes sense; but it’s still a cheap way to gain relevant exposure on both coasts.
After all, the Irish still consider USC and Stanford to be the two biggest contract priorities for the football schedule, meaning they will still receive some attention from the West Coast.
It will be interesting to see what the Irish decide to do as a football program in the next couple of years, but I don’t expect much to change. This appears to be the easiest way for Notre Dame to silence the conference questions without ultimately leaving the independent ranks.
In the event that Notre Dame struggles, it will never have to answer the question as to why the football team isn’t regularly winning the ACC or at least making appearances in the conference championship game.
And with the recent seasons the Irish have had, that could be a very common question.
So, again, Notre Dame finds a way to bide its time and attempt to lure more recruits from larger areas while its football program remains untied to any particular conference.
I guess you can say scheduling five “conference” games is a step in the right direction, but who knows if anything will come of it.