I’m a huge Notre Dame football fan, and have been my whole life.
But I was born in the last national championship year for the Fighting Irish (1988), so I have never seen the school play at the level that made the Golden Dome iconic. Still, I understood and continue to understand the reasons why Notre Dame wants to maintain its independence when it comes to college football.
With that said, I agree with athletic director Jack Swarbrick’s decision to align the Fighting Irish with the ACC.
Announced yesterday, Swarbrick and Notre Dame signed off on the Fighting Irish moving all non-football schools, plus football on a limited schedule, to the Atlantic Coast Conference as soon as 2014.
The reason the move to the ACC is such a solid one is that it finally finds a balance of what is good for the football program and what is good for the rest of the athletics programs at the school.
Notre Dame already has a history with a number of the programs that will make up the ACC once the Fighting Irish get there. From Florida State and Miami to schools like Georgia Tech (Rudy!), Pittsburgh, and Boston College, ND’s schedule won’t look all that different than in years past.
The football team’s schedule for 2012 features four current or future ACC schools: Miami, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh, and Boston College. Last season, ND played Maryland and Florida State too, in addition to Wake Forest, Pitt, and BC.
The schedule will still leave the Fighting Irish with openings to play Michigan, Michigan State, Navy, Southern Cal, Stanford, etc.
Beyond football, I’m a huge fan of this move because of how it will help the other athletics programs at Notre Dame to thrive.
ND has a certain east coast vibe, with successful programs in lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, and fencing. Playing against schools like Maryland, North Carolina, Duke, and Florida State in these sports will only make those programs better.
According to the Twitter feed of Chicago Tribune sports writer Brian Hamilton, who’s a great follow on the ND beat, coaches from the lacrosse and soccer programs are ecstatic with the move. They go as far as call it “the final piece of the puzzle” and “something any coach would dream of.” I get the feeling that these sports have been secretly hoping for this for quite some time.
And that’s not even mentioning basketball!
Muffet McGraw has one national title on her resume, the Ruth Riley-led championship in 2001, and Notre Dame has been amongst the best programs in the country since the turn of the century. The men’s team will benefit from playing the best teams in the country on a yearly basis.
Much of the talk about the ACC move for Notre Dame has centered around recruiting, and that’s absolutely the case. There are a large number of Notre Dame students that come from the Northeast, and the athletics programs can further tap into the Southeast, for which each and every program will benefit.
Another key component to the deal was the fact that Notre Dame maintains its national television contract with NBC. That means no sharing that revenue with conference schools, plus expanding into markets that might not have tuned into Fighting Irish football before.
It truly is the best of both worlds for Notre Dame.
I’m sure the pressure was on for football to join the ACC, but I’m proud of Swarbrick for standing his ground and ending up with a fantastic solution for the Fighting Irish athletic department as a whole.