Notre Dame’s decision to leave the Big East as it was crumbling led to a new deal with the ACC that would provide a conference home for all sports except football and ice hockey. As far as Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is concerned, the Irish may be getting the short end of the stick of the deal compared to the rest of the athletic programs in South Bend.
“Football had to give up a little bit, relative to flexibility and scheduling by taking on with the ACC,” Kelly told Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports in a recent podcast interview. “Therefore, it’s put us in a very difficult situation scheduling and unfortunately it’s taken some of the schools like a Michigan and Michigan State, off our schedule. Because we’re going to keep Navy, we’re going to keep Stanford and we’re going to keep USC. Those three schools are not coming off and those are etched in stone. So now, add your ACC schools with those three schools and you’re really limited as to where you can go.”
Notre Dame’s scheduling agreement with the ACC requires the Irish to play as many as five ACC opponents each season, with Notre Dame rotating through the conference on a yearly basis to allow every school to get a chance to have Notre Dame on the schedule. The more important part of the deal for Notre Dame is the ability to retain its football independence, which allows for a separate television deal (with NBC) and has been of significant value to the university for years.
As a result of the scheduling agreement with the ACC, Notre Dame will play five games against ACC opponents each season in addition to the previously referenced match-ups with traditional rivals Navy, Stanford and USC. That helps keep the Irish playing west coast teams every season and ensures a steady east coast presence as well. Although Notre Dame resides in the thick of the Big Ten and the midwest, the importance of getting exposure coast to coast is not to be overlooked for recruiting and media rights negotiations in the future. If that means football, the most visible and noteworthy program in the athletic department needs to give a little for the benefit of the rest of the university and department, that is just what has to happen. Kelly understands that.
“All I can do is voice my – as a football coach, and especially one that’s been in the Midwest, I love the ability to play Michigan and Michigan State and the tradition of it, but the reality of it is for our athletic department to enter into the agreement with the ACC we have to give up a little bit from a football perspective relative to scheduling,” Kelly told Feldman. “And to make our athletic department whole, relative to soccer and lacrosse and basketball, that ACC agreement was absolutely crucial for our athletic teams.”
So is Notre Dame football getting the raw deal here? Hardly. The Irish can take advantage of the ACC’s bowl tie-ins under certain circumstances and will benefit by having that exposure in the east and southeast in addition to the west coast and any other national opponents Notre Dame ends up scheduling. Notre Dame has always attempted to schedule nationally and that is not going to change. In fact, in an era where some conferences have increased the number of conference games or scheduling commitments, having the security of the ACC scheduling arrangement actually helps Notre Dame move into this new era with a bit more ease and less stress on having to schedule games against quality opponents. With five guaranteed games against the ACC and commitments to play Stanford and USC, Notre Dame is in much better shape than another independent program (BYU) is dealing with right now. And with Notre Dame being formally recognized as an opponent equal to a power conference opponent to satisfy non-conference scheduling requirements, the Irish remain in a uniquely position in the new college football era.
You can listen to the full podcast conversation between Kelly and Feldman on FOXSports.com.
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