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Notre Dame and the ACC

By Dave Holcomb
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The ACC appears prepared to help Notre Dame schedule contests this fall.

It’s become a cliché of sorts, but ideas first become clichés because there’s a strong level of truth to them. In the battle against coronavirus, “we’re all in this together,” and everyone has been forced to make sacrifices.

But the fact generally remains that if someone wants something, one has to be prepared to give in a negotiation as well. Nothing could be more true for Notre Dame football.

With college football potentially headed for a season of only conference games, no program is more at risk of losing out than the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame is largely considered a Power 5 program and yet not in a Power 5 conference -- at least in football -- so a conference-only slate obviously creates a scheduling problem.

At least in theory, but the ACC appears prepared to help Notre Dame schedule contests this fall. According to multiple reports, the ACC is considering Notre Dame as a 15th football member for one season, allowing the Fighting Irish to schedule 10 ACC games. In a normal year, Notre Dame would have up to six ACC contests.

In this hypothetical, Notre Dame is eligible to earn a bid in the ACC Championship, win the league and represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl.

“I guess they would be eligible. If they are in, they are in,” an ACC source said according to CBS Sports.

In the “we’re all in this together” spirit, the ACC should absolutely help Notre Dame, but the conference shouldn’t do it for free.


Notre Dame is already playing Wake Forest, Pitt, Duke, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville from the ACC this season. The Fighting Irish lost contests against Wisconsin, Stanford and USC because the Big Ten and PAC-12 have moved to conference-only schedules.

The agreement between Notre Dame and the ACC, which places all Fighting Irish sports in the conference but allows football to remain independent, is a complicated one. To put it in simple terms, Notre Dame can maintain its football independence because of its NBC TV deal. That’s money the Fighting Irish do not have to share. However, the ACC wins by allowing Notre Dame to be a part-time member because the conference earns TV revenue when the Irish play ACC programs on the road. Those games are aired on ESPN.

Maybe the temporary 2020 agreement between Notre Dame and the ACC can be as easy as this -- the ACC provides four additional opponents for the Fighting Irish this fall, with at least two of those games coming on the road. That means the conference earns part of the TV revenue for two additional Fighting Irish games. Notre Dame has a giant fanbase, so a potential Boston College-Notre Dame or Syracuse-Notre Dame matchup would be a big moneymaker for the ACC. In return, Notre Dame is able to fill out its schedule and keeps the TV revenue from the ACC opponents it plays at home.

But there’s still the issue of Notre Dame’s eligibility to play in the ACC Championship and Orange Bowl. Maybe the ACC takes the attitude that more fans will be tuning into the league championship game if the Fighting Irish are in it, but will it be enough to offset sharing the revenue with a 15th member? How does the money sharing work if Notre Dame takes the ACC spot in the Orange Bowl?

Not to mention, whether the Atlantic or Coastal division allows Notre Dame to be its eighth member is also a sticking point. In the Coastal, Notre Dame would be the obvious favorite to win the division.

Of course, all these issues are contingent on the ACC being able to host a championship game and bowl season occurring as it normally does. Maybe neither happens during this crazy year.

Still, Duke coach David Cutcliffe said it best -- “you don’t get something for nothing.” It will be very interesting to see what the ACC receives in return of giving Notre Dame a full 2020 football schedule.