After all of the shuffling that has taken place in college athletics over the past six months, the University of Notre Dame made the right decision to leave the Big East Conference for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The most important part of this change is that the Notre Dame football program, which was independent of the Big East and any other conference in the past, is now guaranteed to play five games against ACC opponents and to participate in the ACC’s bowl lineup every season.
Even though the Irish has prided itself on being independent of collegiate conferences throughout its storied past, this was a necessary move for the college. Because it brings in the greatest revenues, the conference carousel revolves around the college’s football program. This latest move by Notre Dame is no different.
Because of the Notre Dame football team’s independent status, it was considered a nonconference opponent to all the teams it played. Conferences allow their teams to play in only a small number of nonconference games each year. Notre Dame feared it might not be able to continue playing its super schedule full of nonconference games in the future.
Now, after Notre Dame plays five ACC football games, the remaining seven games will be easily filled up with historic rivals such as the University of Southern California, University of Stanford and either of the Michigan powerhouses.
These games are not only important because of the rivalry, but primarily because of recruiting. The stability the ACC provides allows Notre Dame to not only maintain its presence on the West Coast and in the Midwest region, but expand its brand and recruiting reach to the Southeast. Notre Dame does not have the same type of aura it once had, making recruiting on these fertile grounds a necessary step toward remaining relevant.
Some might say the move to the ACC was a poor decision because of the great competition and rivalries the basketball program is leaving behind in the Big East. In reality, this move does not affect basketball all that much, with Syracuse University and University of Pittsburgh moving to the ACC in 2013. West Virginia University also left the Big East for the Big 12 Conference in July. In addition, two games against legendary Duke University and University of North Carolina basketball programs is something no other conference in the country can offer.
Other conferences including the Big Ten have tried to recruit Notre Dame in the past, only to be denied. The offer of exposure to the stagnant Midwest was nothing new for Notre Dame. In terms of demographics and recruiting, the Southeast made the most sense for Notre Dame.
Although Notre Dame will be forced to pay the Big East an exit fee upon its transfer, it will undoubtedly profit financially from this move. According to the Big East’s 2011 tax statement, Notre Dame earned $5.65 million in conference revenue sharing in 2010. In the ACC that same year, each school received a $12.25 million cut of the conference share. With the addition of Syracuse, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and now Notre Dame, that number is certain to jump even higher.
While this may seem like an unnecessary change, it is the right move for Notre Dame and will continue to be decades down the line.
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