At least twice in the past two decades or so, Notre Dame has rebuffed Big Ten overtures to shed its football independence and become a full-fledged conference member in all sports.
With the announcement today that the Irish will be moving, with the exception of hockey, its Olympic sports to the ACC from the Big East as well as playing five football games annually against conference members, it appears any shot the Big Ten had of landing its prized piece of the football expansion puzzle has taken a significant if not fatal blow.
In a statement released shortly after the announcement was made, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany wasn’t the least bit shocked by the development… and hinted that the agreement between the Irish and the ACC is yet another sign that expansion in other conferences could still be in the offing.
“Today’s announcement by the ACC that Notre Dame will join the conference to compete in all sponsored sports with the exception of football was not a surprise. Both the Big 12 and the ACC have openly expressed an interest in adding Notre Dame to their conference under such a condition.
“The announcement by the ACC is further indication that the tectonic plates underlying conference affiliation are still warm. As always, we will continue to monitor the landscape.
“We are very pleased with both our current conference membership and our conference structure.”
As noted by ESPN.com Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg, Notre Dame had also sought from Delany’s conference the same arrangement it reached with the ACC, although the Big Ten wanted all Irish sports — including football — or nothing.
Notre Dame already has an ACC-esque scheduling relationship with three Big Ten football schools — Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue — as well as annual matchups with USC and Navy.
Add in future series against the likes of Texas (2015-16, 2019-20), BYU (five-game series, dates to be determined), Stanford (2016-19) and Miami (2016-17) among others, it’s unclear how the Irish will juggle future slates with a five-game ACC schedule in the offing beginning in 2015 at the latest.
Take 2016, for instance. Already, the Irish have 11 games scheduled — all of the above-mentioned teams minus BYU, plus current ACC member Boston College and future ACC members Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Add in the five games with the ACC — two/three/four if BC/Pitt/’Cuse are part of that year’s ACC-Irish rotation — and, well, some series will be facing the scheduling guillotine.
Which ones? Michigan and Michigan State seem safe, especially the former. Given the recruiting presence it gives the football program on the West Coast as well as being one of the most storied rivalries in the sport, the game vs. USC appears to be an untouchable. Willingly giving up the Navy rivalry would be something the Irish would be loath to do as well.
Everything else, though, would appear ripe for pruning. Which ones remain to be seen.