The ACC has accepted Notre Dame as its 15th member. The school will compete as a full member in all sports but football, in which it will play five games annually against league members, and men’s ice hockey, in which it will join Hockey East.
No timetable has been set for Notre Dame’s departure from the Big East. At a news conference in Chapel Hill, N.C., ACC commissioner John Swofford said he was leaving the matter up to Notre Dame and the ACC.
“We will welcome them as soon as they’re able to join us,” Swofford said.
Pitt and Syracuse will begin ACC play in the 2013-14 school year, two years after accepting an invitation to join the league from the Big East. When Notre Dame does join, six of the league’s 15 members will be former Big East members, joining Boston College, Miami, Pitt, Syracuse and Virginia Tech.
“We have monitored the changing conference landscape for many months and have concluded that moving to the ACC is the best course of action for us,” said Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame vice president and athletic director, in a statement. “We are able to maintain our historic independence in football, join in the ACC’s non-BCS bowl package, and provide a new and extremely competitive home for our other sports.”
The alliance permits Notre Dame to retain its cherished football independence, but with the five annually scheduled ACC games, the league would appear to gain more bargaining power in a re-negotiated television contract. It was not immediately clear how the five games against ACC members would be scheduled. The Fighting Irish play Boston College, Wake Forest and Miami this season, as well as Pitt, which will join the ACC next year. Georgia Tech has played 34 games against Notre Dame beginning in 1922, most recently in a home-and-home series in 2006-07.
At the news conference, Swofford said there was no need or intention to add a 16th team. Given that a 16th team would create a 15-team football conference, he called it “illogical.” It also appears that no one in the league will be going anywhere. School presidents voted to raise the exit fee to $50 million. It was raised to $20 million last fall when Pitt and Syracuse were officially accepted into the league.
Going forward, “I don’t know why there would be any rumors” about schools leaving for a different conference, Swofford said.
Notre Dame will retain its contract with NBC to broadcast home football games. The deal brings Notre Dame a reported $15 million annually and expires in 2015. The school will not share in the football portion of the ACC’s deal with ESPN but will receive a 1/15th share of the basketball portion, which is 20 percent of the entire ACC contract with ESPN. The ACC’s re-negotiated contract is worth a little under $3.6 billion over the next 15 years. Notre Dame’s share from basketball will be $47 million.
Using the ACC’s valuation of the football portion of the contract being worth 80 percent, each ACC school will average $13.5 million in television revenues for football over the life of the contract. However, Swofford noted that the added inventory of two to three annual games against Notre Dame in ACC stadiums will allow the league to go back to ESPN to re-do its deal.
The decision by league presidents to add Notre Dame went against its previous all-or-nothing stance regarding new members. At the league’s media days event in July, Swofford said that was the presidents’ position the last time it had been brought up, which was during the expansion to 12 teams in 2003.
“What was best 20 years ago isn’t necessarily best in today’s world,” Swofford said Wednesday.
In July, Swofford seemed to know that bringing on Notre Dame as a full-fledged member would not be easy.
“Obviously, I think Notre Dame can continue longer than anybody else because of their history and tradition,” he said. “Notre Dame’s Notre Dame. There’s a certain element that goes along with being Notre Dame that’s different than just about any other institution program in the country in terms of its ability to continue to be independent in football. Obviously that’s their decision going forward as to whether they think they can do that. I know it’s important to them and I would think they would want to do that as long as they feel like they can and remain a viable national competitor.”
More updates to come.