Near the end of last week, reports circulated that Notre Dame was in talks to join the Atlantic Coast Conferenceas a full-time member in the near future. The Irish have an agreement with the ACC that sports such as men’s and women’s basketball, along with many others, will be full-time members, while the football team will remain independent of a conference, but play five ACC games per season on a rotating basis. To substantiate these rumors, Tim Brando of Fox Sports indicated that there were small, informal discussions, and that it was only “a matter of time,” before the Irish were full-time members of the ACC.
On Tuesday, Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick squashed these rumors, according to the Orlando Sentinel. According to Swarbrick, the Irish love the ACC, but are completely fine with the way the relationship currently sits ad have had no further discussions about taking the relationship to the next level.
It is getting difficult to keep track of how many times the Notre Dame Football program has been linked to a conference, and for what seems like the thousandth time, it begs the age-old question of whether Notre Dame will ever make the move to join a conference. Certainly, the need for conference is perhaps greater than ever, with the way the College Football Playoff Committee views conference championships as a de facto tie-breaker. But, with Notre Dame’s schedule and current TV deal with NBC, which runs through 2025, it is somewhat puzzling that this is still being talked about.
The pros for the Irish to remain independent are clear. In the current arrangement, the Irish are the only college football team that plays on NBC, therefore every home game is televised nationally. Furthermore, independence allows for schedule flexibility, which gives the Irish the ability to play a game in California (a pipeline recruiting state for Notre Dame) in November of each season.
But, as the landscape of college football changes, it is worth wondering if the cons will outnumber the pros in the near future. After all, there are reasons for recruits to choose schools other than Notre Dame. For one, the geography of campus is somewhat poor. Outside of campus itself, South Bend is nothing special. In addition, there are academic challenges to playing under the Golden Dome that have been well-documented.
These two reasons combined with the fact that there may come a day when an Irish team gets spurned from a chance to play for the National Championship may prove to be a major deterrent for recruits and may force the university’s hands. That, however, does not seem to be on Notre Dame’s radar, at least for the time being.