The Faceoff: Was University of Notre Dame’s switch to the Atlantic Coast Conference a good choice?

David Schantz, Staff Writer

Last week, the University of Notre Dame, like so many other schools in the last year, announced that it was switching conferences and would join the Atlantic Coast Conference for all sports except football and men’s hockey.

This move brings another powerhouse school to the ACC, and while the conference certainly stands to benefit, the Irish will regret it in the long run. Notre Dame is one of only four independent Division I Football Bowl Subdivision schools in the nation, and supporters take deep pride in this distinction.

But while the Irish football program may still be officially independent once it joins the ACC, it will be a part of the conference for all intents and purposes. Notre Dame will be required to play five football games per year against teams in the ACC. This is three games fewer than teams actually in the conference currently play, but still more than Notre Dame will play against other teams not in the conference.

The ACC is by no means a great football conference, and it only has two top-25 teams at the moment. This means that Notre Dame will be forced to play less skilled teams, such as Duke University, for every year that it continues to play in the ACC.

In NCAA football it is not enough to win – you must win convincingly and against strong competition. Strength of schedule is vital for teams that expect to compete for a national title, which Notre Dame expects to do every year, and its strength of schedule will almost certainly drop once it joins the ACC and loses its ability to pick and choose its opponents. Notre Dame won’t even be able to choose the teams it plays in the ACC, as the conference will make that decision. The Irish have been able to do that throughout its history.

At Notre Dame, tradition is everything. Any move that stands to threaten this tradition must be seen as having a negative impact on the school. The Irish’s classic rivalry games against University of South Carolina, Naval Academy, Stanford University and the like are put in jeopardy with the school’s move to join the ACC.

Given the current nature of college football, it is also not inconceivable to envision Notre Dame abandoning its football independence in the not-so-distant future and officially joining a conference. If this does happen, the ACC would obviously be the university’s current first choice. A permanent move to the ACC would result in at least three more in-conference games for the Irish and further threaten the team’s traditional rivalry games.

If you look at other athletics, the move makes more sense. Notre Dame will join recent Big East Conference departures Syracuse University and Pittsburgh University in the ACC, both highly competitive basketball teams. Notre Dame has never been a basketball school, however. They have always been, and will continue to be, a football school.

While the switch may make sense for other athletic programs, the move to the ACC hurts Notre Dame where it matters the most: its football program.

Matt Smith, Staff Writer

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.