ALTHOUGH COMMISSIONER John Swofford didn’t shed light on the matter Sunday, count me among those who think Notre Dame will one day be a football and basketball playing member of the ACC.
At the beginning of the league’s annual preseason football Kickoff Sunday at Greensboro’s Grandover Resort, Swofford sidestepped a question about the possibility of Notre Dame eventually adding to the ACC membership.
“I can’t really speak to that … I would only speak to schools that I know will be ACC members,” the former North Carolina quarterback said. “With Notre Dame, it’s obvious they’re very committed to their independence in football. If that changes as they go forward, we’ll wait and see. But I know it’s very important to them institutionally.”
But for all Notre Dame has been historically, the price of independent poker is going up.
With a four-team football national championship tournament starting in the 2014 season, the Irish — like it or not — likely are going to need to be in a league. Make that a league they can reasonably hope to win if the first and easiest qualifier for a tournament bid is a conference championship trophy.
Notre Dame football these days isn’t your Uncle George Gipp’s Notre Dame, but it doesn’t take Rickey Watters and Chris Zorich to win big in the ACC these days either.
Since the start of 2006 season, Notre Dame is 8-4 against ACC members, and one of those was a 29-24 loss to North Carolina in 2008 that has been erased as a result of the Tar Heels’ many NCAA rules violations.
Three ACC vs. Notre Dame games are scheduled for 2012, giving the Irish a chance to extend their winning streak against the league to 9-0 (10-0 if you count the North Carolina game in 2008).
For practical matters, this would be a marriage of football practicality — the weak ACC and the weak Notre Dame.
Notre Dame probably could not win the Big Ten (give or take Penn State), the Pacific-Whatever, Big-ish or SEC.
“It would be a plus for the ACC from a traditional stand point,” said N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon. “There’s a lot of tradition involved with Notre Dame, so that would be something people would pay attention to.”
But the ACC also would give Notre Dame better recruiting access to the south. The day is long gone when Notre Dame can land talent simply on its pedigree. And it’s for sure that the day is long gone that the Irish can win simply by recruiting in the Midwest, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and New England.
Even if you are Notre Dame, there can come a time when the brand needs to be extended. That’s the appeal the ACC offers.
Due in large part to North Carolina, the ACC’s academic image has taken a beating and that will be a factor.
But athletically and academically, the ACC is still the best fit for Notre Dame. And at some point, the right money and the right home will intersect.
Location, location …