Last night, TigerIllustrated.com reported that representatives from the ACC and Notre Dame met over the weekend. As a result, there was yet another brief stir regarding conference realignment.
Well, exhale once again, y’all. Even if the topic of the Irish joining the ACC in any capacity was brought up, it’s not being divulged. What has been disclosed are discussions between the two sides about a possible match-up in the Orange Bowl, which extended its partnership with the ACC last week by another 12 years.
Notre Dame confirmed the talks in a release today after the Chicago Tribune reached out to the school for comment in a follow-up to the TigerIllustrated report.
“Since the development of the new plan for post-season football, the ACC and Notre Dame have had discussions relating to the Orange Bowl,” spokesman John Heisler said in the statement. “While presidents have been consulted, the discussions have been between ACC conference staff and [athletic director] Jack [Swarbrick].”
Nothing official, but at any rate, the mere fact that Notre Dame is considering a BCS bowl tie-in of sorts is a departure from both the status quo and Swarbrick’s initial vision of the Irish’s place in college football’s new postseason. According to Swarbrick, Notre Dame’s first preference was, as one would expect, to “bowl hop” among available “Big Six” bowls provided it finishes in the top 12 at the end of the regular season.
But now that the ACC has followed the lead of the Big Ten and Pac-12, which have already extended their agreement with the Rose Bowl, at-large spots in the six major bowls that will make up college football’s new postseason are limited since “automatic qualifier” will be replaced with “contractual tie-in.”
Anyone who’s anyone is securing their spot, and you know Notre Dame will not watch its postseason inclusion odds be reduced. Not when it has options. Not when it can afford to strike a deal and, perhaps, maintain some of that flexibility Swarbrick wanted.
Otherwise, the Irish will be forced to join a conference for football. And face it: like it or not, if that was a real possibility, it would have happened by now.