It seems to be an annual tradition for the college football offseason. Now that we have spring football behind us and we are counting down the days until the kicking off of the summer media day extravaganza, the toes are dipping in the realignment rumor pool yet again. This time we are discussing the possibility that Notre Dame may be having conversations with the ACC to join as a full-time conference member and abandon football independence.
With ACC spring meetings on deck, a conversation about Notre Dame exploring the option of joining the ACC as a full-league member was given a spark by comments by FOX Sports broadcaster Tim Brando in a radio interview in Louisville, which was shared on Twitter the other day and continues to be spotlighted on Monday.
Notre Dame has stood by its desire to remain a football independent for decades and continues to hold a seat at the adult table of collegiate athletics without a conference affiliation in football in large part because of its history. If the selling point to lure Notre Dame into a conference affiliation is access to the College Football Playoff, it may not be enough to change the minds of those in power in South Bend. Notre Dame retains a solid chance to make the playoff under the current four-team model as long as they have a record worth considering for playoff inclusion like a 12-0 record or an 11-1 record. There is very likely no chance an undefeated Irish would be left out of a four-team playoff, and it would stand to reason an 11-1 Notre Dame would have an excellent chance to be included in the College Football Playoff. They most certainly be in the conversation as a playoff candidate at the very least, with too many unknown variables to the playoff equation to be determined in each of the power conferences.
Even if and when the College Football Playoff expands to eight teams (or more?), an independent Irish would likely have a good chance to be considered for a spot if the record is worthy. Automatic bids for conference champions could alter the outlook a bit, but once again, a 12 or 11-win Notre Dame team being left out of a playoff field with eight spots overall feels unlikely in the great majority of the scenarios on the table.
Notre Dame joining a conference may happen some day, but the Irish have gone this long without being in a football conference and has shown no inkling of a desire to to abandon its football independence. Money tends to be the great motivator though, and if the ACC can convince Notre Dame the move to full membership is worth it, then the door should always remain open.
The ACC and Notre Dame recently announced future matchups through 2037 as part of the football partnership the conference has with the Irish, who are ACC members in nearly all other sports. Maybe by 2037, the ACC will have convinced Notre Dame to join. Or not.