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If power conferences split, what happens to Notre Dame and who else gets in?

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.

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23 Responses to “If power conferences split, what happens to Notre Dame and who else gets in?”
  1. overratedgators says: Jan 17, 2014 10:07 PM

    After rebuffing so many overtures in the past, it would be truly hysterical to watch the tables turn, with Notre Dame begging one of the conferences to let them in.

  2. thefiesty1 says: Jan 17, 2014 10:15 PM

    ND has already (semi) joined the ACC. True it’s the Big East 2.0 but they really do make the ACC almost relevant.

  3. raysfan1 says: Jan 17, 2014 11:37 PM

    The BCS champ is from the ACC. The Orange Bowl winner is from the ACC. “Almost relevant?” *eye roll*

  4. ttalarico says: Jan 18, 2014 12:33 AM

    Notre Dame begging conferences to let them in? Seriously??

  5. kcoral says: Jan 18, 2014 2:16 AM

    Notre Dame just was named the #2 most valuable CFB team yet the author thinks ND would have to join a conference? Ok, sure…

  6. sportsguy3434 says: Jan 18, 2014 4:51 AM

    Yes ND would most likely have to join a power conference. Why? Because the other power conferences won’t want to put up with a school that wants their own rules because they don’t want to share toys. I guess they have spurned the big 10 in the past and only the two traditionally weakest conferences have put up with their quasi association nonsense- Big East and ACC. Just ask E. Gordon Gee. Oh wait

  7. theflyingtad says: Jan 18, 2014 7:46 AM

    I think the present is the “tables turned” scenario. Long ago, Notre Dame did beg to join conferences and they didn’t want anything to do with them.

  8. ancientcougar says: Jan 18, 2014 10:00 AM

    The ACC made a hell of a statement this year.

  9. ancientcougar says: Jan 18, 2014 10:01 AM

    Houston won’t get in until they make the financial commitment to get tier 1 coaches running their programs.

  10. amosalanzostagg says: Jan 18, 2014 10:26 AM

    ND is already part of the ACC. All their athletic programs will compete for conference championships. Football plays an ACC schedule, making them eligible for the conference championship AND the capability to keep what traditional games they want to keep. Swarbrick is ahead of the curve. He knows the millions that await the advent of the superconferences and has shrewdly positioned ND in a premier conference.

    The ACC has quietly positioned it’s brand as the premier conference by adding ND. Given it’s total sports package, particularly Football and Men’s Basketball, the ACC is now on par with the B1G and sadly to say, ahead of the SEC, the PAC-12 and the Big 12, in that order.

    Since the ACC is now driving the bus to superconference status, who does the ACC take to hit the magic number of 16? Connecticut, or an other conference team to start the superconference realignment roller coaster?

    The decision is going to make the ACC a cool billion dollars.

    Welcome to the New World of college sports. Enjoy college football now, these are the good old days.


  11. amosalanzostagg says: Jan 18, 2014 1:06 PM

    The question isn’t where ND lands, they already have a home conference in the ACC. The question is where BYU goes. Couple the service academies wanting to be part of “Big Boy” conferences and you have a conundrum.

    If I’m the ACC, I extend to the Naval Academy if nothing more than to keep congressional oversight out of my league.

    If I’m the PAC-12, I extend to BYU, Air Force, Texas
    and Kansas.

    If I’m the B1G, I extend to Army and West Virginia.

    The SEC picks up OU and OSU.

    The AAC picks up the remaining 4 members they need from the carcass of the Big 12 and you have an
    80 team new division, made for men’s basketball and football. The Big East in basketball isn’t affected and you have “at large” options for the mid
    majors to “play in” for slots.

    Money is driving this whole program. Actuaries have “gamed” the super conferences for the NCAA
    to show just how much they Association stands to make. It makes sense from a money sense for the new division.

    Enjoy college sports now, these are the good old days.


  12. deadeye says: Jan 18, 2014 5:02 PM

    The only reason ND would ever join a conference is under the condition that only conference champions make the new playoff system. That can not and will not happen until either the BIG12 or ACC get broken apart to allow the power five to become the power four.

    Keep your eye on the Maryland lawsuit. If UMD ever gets out for something in the neighborhood of 20 million, all heck could break loose. The ACC ain’t getting a network, and even though this past season was special, the past ten were brutally bad.

  13. amosalanzostagg says: Jan 18, 2014 5:36 PM


    Come into 2014, the past is the past. The ACC is going to be a force nationally TV market wise simply because it has

    (1.) Notre Dame. ND is already in the ACC. ND will have the best of both worlds in football, 5 ACC games make them eligible for the ACC championship. If they are ranked higher the still get an outside opportunity to play in an playoff game.

    (2.) ACC has football AND basketball panache. It will reach NATIONALLY in scope with Notre Dame in the Midwest and the ACC’s strong base on the East Coast and the Southeast, and

    (3.) The ACC is already talking with ESPN.
    The ACC already did important legwork back in April by securing a grant of rights for its 15 members. An ACC Channel or not, the schools are locked in. That the ACC is even entertaining a channel is impressive, considering how the Maryland departure was a crowbar to the kneecap when it left.

    The Grant of Rights lends flexibility to explore a channel because schools’ rights are tied into the league whether they stick with a traditional media rights deal or not. Starting in July, the league will pay its full-time members more than $20 million a year in television revenue.

    The ACC will have insane basketball, quality non-revenue sports and football that underwhelms at times but has potential because of its fertile recruiting ground.

    It also has a footprint of 43 million homes (according to Florida State athletic director Randy Spetman) and has product in several major cities — Atlanta, Boston, Miami, Charlotte, Pittsburgh.

    The ACC with ND isn’t going anywhere.

    The ACC is a force to be reckoned with.


  14. gouhcoogs says: Jan 18, 2014 7:17 PM

    Houston would be a perfect fit. Plus, each tier 1 coach we have had has gotten stolen by programs in larger conferences,…..ever heard of Art Briles, or Kevin Sumlin…….gosh folks, wise up please.

  15. kfd91 says: Jan 18, 2014 8:08 PM

    Do you mean coaches like Art Briles or Kevin Sumlin?

    The University of Houston Football Head coaches:
    Art Briles, 34–28–0 (2003–07)
    Kevin Sumlin, 35–17–0 (2008–11)

    “ancientcougar says:
    Jan 18, 2014 10:01 AM
    Houston won’t get in until they make the financial commitment to get tier 1 coaches running their programs.”

  16. musketmaniac says: Jan 18, 2014 8:33 PM

    This backfires in many ways. starting with getting shut down by congress, or not getting Notre Dame who is going to get top dollar no matter where they peddle their golden goods. if they separate can they afford to play outside of their new power conferences. if so at what costs could losses to top teams. would it end with a title game in late January with champions pitted against each other. at what point does the N.F.L. get involved/against. How does this affect march madness. wouldn’t it be in the best interest for teams like st.johns, Georgetown and other big basketball schools with little or no football success to boycott the elite conferences. And last the t.v. rights. with so many contracts the schools that stay will be entitled to bigger shares of the remaining conracts

  17. deadeye says: Jan 18, 2014 8:40 PM

    amosalanzostagg, I see your point that the ACC has some strong qualities. It is after all a P5 conference with strong national brands. But there are some serious weaknesses as well. While the footprint is huge (I think it currently is the largest), there is very little market penetration north of Virginia. And there is no benefit to a large footprint without market penetration.

    Think about this, how many ACC universities are the premiere college brand in their home state? The only ones are UNC and either one of the Virginia schools, VT or UVA. Now make a similar list for the other four power conferences. As an example I’ll use the SEC who has LSU, Ole Miss, Alabama, UGA, UF, USC, UT, Mizzou, and Kentucky. Even Clemson and FSU are second fiddle in their home state, and they are the top football powers in the ACC.

    The exit fee that is being fought over in court is the thing holding the conference together, not the GOR. Question, what did the ACC get in exchange for the GOR? Here’s why I ask, if they didn’t get something in exchange, GOR would likely be struck down if challenged in court. No contract is valid unless there is an exchange of consideration. Without something of value being given to the conference (like a network), what they gave up would revert back. Now of course they are HOPING to get a network, I understand that. But it won’t happen because Disney won’t let ESPN spend any more cash. They are tapped out for the time being.

    All the ACC’s chips are on the Maryland lawsuit.

  18. mldean71 says: Jan 18, 2014 11:40 PM

    20 teams each in the west(Pac12), east(SEC), north(BIG10), south(BIG12). 4team playoffs already set to take the four conference champion.

  19. amosalanzostagg says: Jan 19, 2014 10:01 AM


    One word, Raycom.

    The ACC is sitting in the driver’s seat simply because ESPN is in the process of buying the venture it once owned. By having the GOR already signed by all 15 schools. the ACC can build it’s product in both football and basketball, the money sports, and watch it’s brand grow.

    Syracuse and Boston College are north of Virginia and bring the North and Northeast TV markets with them. Look at the TV numbers lost by the Big East when the mere ANNOUNCEMENT of the pending move by the two schools.

    In over forty five years of working with Universities
    and their respective Administrations and Athletic Departments, I know market moves and what is shaping them. ESPN is not a dummy. This is about pure, unadulterated money. I can see the ACC having their network in play by 2016,maybe 2017.

    I know people get upset when I opine that the ACC is going to be a market force to be dealt with. Sad reality is that the ACC and the SEC (simply because of changing demographics in the Upper Midwest, particularly Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania growing older, are all shifting toward the South.) are markets waiting to EXPLODE.

    Does that mean the B1G and PAC-12 are dog meat?


    It means that their respective TV markets are mature and have to face the fact that in today’s social media market and 24/7/365, an Eastern and Central Time Zone is far more advantageous to the
    SEC and the ACC in growing markets.

    The conference in deep, deep do do is the Big12
    with 10 teams and a regional interest. Texas runs that conference from top to bottom and if Texas reads the tea leaves and see that they can make more money by being part of a super conference, they’ll jettison the Big 12 in a heart beat. What is sad that good schools such as Baylor and Kansas State could be on the outside looking in. I’ve had
    many school Presidents and AD’s tell me that if you aren’t looking to position your school to it’s maximum advantage in another conference, shame on me.

    It’s all about the Benjamins.


  20. musketmaniac says: Jan 20, 2014 5:43 PM

    Baylor and kansas st. have only been relevant for a few years. not much tradition there. Oklahoma, texas tech, even wvu would have been better examples

  21. v2the4 says: Jan 22, 2014 12:34 PM

    I dont think that Notre Dame is eligible for the ACC football championship. They cannot play in the ACC title game due to the fact they are only playing four ACC games, while everyone else is playing 9 games.

    Now that the BCS is history, I have no idea what formula the new playoff commitee will come up with to seed teams, but Notre Dame can play in the new four team playoff format ahead of the ACC champ if selected by said committee and can also play the ACC champ in the Orange Bowl, where the golden domers are limited to two max appearences over 12 years.

    as for the Raycom/ESPN deal, they are already in bed together, thru the 2026-2027 year. as part of the original deal that ESPN signed with the ACC back in 2011, the ACC commish John Swofford, noted that any deal with ESPN was contingent on Raycom being included. Raycom has been the main ACC tv partner since its inception in 1979. Raycom was previously an SEC tv partner, but ESPN purchased all rights from the SEC in 2008 to be the main content partner.

    ESPN is the majority rights holder of ACC content in football, mens and womens basketball, and baseball, but has subleased games back to Raycom for $50M per season. Raycom has 31 football and 60 mens basketball games. Raycom has subleased 17 football games and 32 basketball games to fox sports south for an undisclosed fee.

    Raycom paid the ACC $1M in its first tv deal in 1981, then had a 3 yr/$18M deal from 1982-1985. That deal is now 14 yrs and 4.6B, worth $20M per season to all 15 schools.

    the raycom name has actually disappered for ACC telecast as raycom is now the ACC network, they operate, own all the digital content, archived games and cell phone apps as well….

  22. glasswolf54 says: May 30, 2014 8:57 PM

    ND can not play in the ACC title game. They are eligible for the ACC bowl tie in only

    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.

  23. martizeman says: Nov 29, 2014 10:54 PM

    I have been following college football since my cheerleading days at UF in 1975, but became a neurotic groupie when UM, UF, FSU, and Notre Dame were the frontrunners in the mid to late 1980’s. My motto used to be I’m for UM, UF and anyone who beats Notre Dame. I remember fondly those “wide rights” of FSU. But, my comment her is focused on why Notre Dame seems to be “above” the rules when it came to trying to put all the colleges in conferences, veen many years ago when UM was placed in the Big East, Penn State was forced to join a conference, FSU, etc. How did Notre Dame manage to rise above it, and still does. I belied if they wan to remain an Independent” then they should be forced to play in that venue – playing AA schools like Army and Navy, etc. they can’t have it both ways!

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