One of the most interesting wrinkles of the upcoming 2020 college football season comes in the ACC. For the first time in the program’s storied history, Notre Dame football will be the member of a conference, if only for a year.
With other leagues’ decisions to go conference-only with their schedules, Notre Dame was going to lose a number of important games off of its schedule. Stanford and USC, annual rivalry games for the Fighting Irish, were canceled with the Pac-12’s move. Wisconsin and Arkansas come off with the Big Ten and SEC’s moves, respectively.
Instead of trying to scrape together a new schedule for the year, Notre Dame is shacking up with the ACC, the league that sponsors the rest of its sports aside from men’s hockey. The Fighting Irish become the 15th league member for a year, and play a 10-game league schedule, with the option to maintain one non-conference game. The historic rivalry with Navy, which also seems determined to pay this fall, seems like a likely choice. That game, which was originally set to be played in Ireland, would have to be in South Bend, given the ACC’s protocols, which do not allow for the non-conference game to be played outside of the ACC team’s home state. It was tentatively set to be moved to Annapolis.
“This simply — as it has been with other aspects of the ACC-Notre Dame relationship — is a win-win,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said today, during an appearance on ACC Network’s Packer And Durham. “We’re in a difficult situation, all of us in this country and in sports, and in the ACC we’re trying to find the best path. We’ve said over and over again, we’re in it together. It was the best thing for the ACC, it was the best thing for Notre Dame, and that makes it pretty easy when you know that.”
John Swofford just wrapped on Packer & Durham in his first comments since schedule model announced. Called Notre Dame a win-win for both sides, adding that it's a "one-off for this year in these particular circumstances."
— Andrea Adelson (@aadelsonESPN) July 31, 2020
The ACC is a benefactor as well. Notre Dame will bring serious eyeballs to TV sets for ACC play this year. As a result, the league will share in the program’s independent television rights deal with NBC for its home games.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, is eligible to play in the ACC Championship Game and represent the league in the Orange Bowl this fall.
“It was not hard for us to come to an agreement on that in terms of the television money. It was not hard for us to come to an agreement that if they were coming in, they were bringing their NBC games, they would play the same number of games as everybody else in the league, then they would be eligible to play in the ACC football championship game as well as the Orange Bowl, if they turned out to be our representative in the Orange Bowl … and obviously the College Football Playoff.”
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick wouldn’t downplay the significance of Notre Dame being in a conference for the year. He and Swofford both made sure to note that this is a temporary arrangement. From ESPN:
“This is just an unprecedented and extraordinary year, and you recognize that going in,” Swarbrick told ESPN on Thursday morning. “Could we have constructed a schedule without this? Yes, but given the uncertainties that everybody faces, you couldn’t exactly be sure what you have. There was a greater level of control and certainty if we could do this with the ACC than if we had just constructed the schedule ourselves.”
“In the historical context, it is a big deal,” he said. “It also reflects the great opportunity that our working relationship with the ACC presented under these circumstances. Very appreciative of commissioner Swofford and my colleagues for giving us this opportunity in the historical context it is. It is very significant.”
Notre Dame football is set to host Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Louisville, and Syracuse, and will travel to Boston College, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Pitt and Wake Forest for its conference slate this fall.