With talk of a potential division one split once again heating up and becoming a more realistic possibility, the domino effect that would play out in college football could put the past few years of realignment to shame. If the big power conferences went off to play under their own set of rules, programs not wanting to be left behind would scramble to make sales pitches looking to entry in to any of the conferences willing to add one more member or two, or more.
So, where would Notre Dame fit in to that mix?
You can bet your next paycheck there would be little standing in the way of Notre Dame finding a way to be a part of the new structure and super division in college football. The Irish have long been owners of a seat at the big boy table regardless of conference non-affiliation. Notre Dame has figured out a way to get special access to the BCS bowls without conference affiliation, if they manage to meet a certain set of requirements available only to them, and Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick remains one of the power names in collegiate athletics. More importantly, Notre Dame brings money with them wherever they go.
Notre Dame’s place in college sports took on a different look recently by abandoning the Big East and hooking up with the ACC for a unique membership that allows for football independence while providing conference affiliation for just about every other sport. Part of the agreement between the ACC and Notre Dame arranges for a handful of guaranteed games between the Irish and ACC opponents on a rotating basis, as well as ways for Notre Dame to get in on the ACC’s bowl tie-ins. The ACC would surely be a part of the upper tier in any division split, along with the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC, so the question would be what that would mean for Notre Dame’s status.
Could this division one split be the final hurdle standing in the way of Notre Dame and full-conference membership? It is far too early to tell, but that could become a realistic possibility depending on how the new structure is set up moving forward. This is all hypothetical at this point, of course, but if the power conferences split and formed their own division, it may be realistic to expect they work out a way to form their own postseason and split potential revenue between the conferences. Would they want to be splitting a share with Notre Dame, or would the ACC want to be sharing their share with the Irish? Put yourself in the shoes of the conferences. Would you want to do it?
Regardless of what would happen with Notre Dame, there would be plenty of schools looking to make a push for an invite to a power conference. For starters, would the American be included in any power shift? After losing Louisville (ACC in 2014) and Rutgers (Big Ten in 2014), the conference may lack the appeal to be in the same room as the top conferences. That could lead to AAC programs like Cincinnati or UCF trying to work their way in to another conference willing to take them on board. Perhaps even Houston. Remember, television markets are key ingredients in any realignment move. The power conferences likely have all of them accounted for at this point, but adding a little extra is rarely frowned upon.