Notre Dame joins ACC, retains football independence


Notre Dame has a new conference, but it's staying independent in football.

The ACC accepted Notre Dame as its 15th member Wednesday morning, and the Irish will move all their non-football programs there from the Big East. Additionally, Notre Dame will play five football games against ACC opponents each year, which isn't a huge leap -- the Irish play three ACC schools in 2012, just as they did in 2011. And Pittsburgh is a future ACC member, too, so it could even be viewed as Notre Dame playing four on their schedule.

"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 athletic director Jack Swarbrick in a statement released by the ACC. "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."

Notre Dame's non-football programs had competed in the Big East since 1995, but with the conference losing Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC and adding the likes of Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, SMU and Temple, Notre Dame clearly wanted to be a part of a conference with more familiar faces.

"The ACC is composed of some of the most highly respected universities in the country, and we at Notre Dame look forward to joining them," said Notre Dame President, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., in a statement. "With a mix of institutions - many of which are also private, similar to Notre Dame in size, and committed to excellence in research and undergraduate education - the ACC is an exceptionally good fit for us academically, as well as athletically."

In adding Notre Dame, the ACC Council of Presidents voted to raise exit fee from the conference, and that number likely will be in excess of 50 million. While the Big 12 was picked apart and the Big East decimated by conference realignment, the ACC has remained strong and appears a permanent home for the Irish.

Notre Dame was linked to the Big 12 as rumors flew during the last few years of conference realignment, with a deal similar to the one now hammered out with the ACC being thought about. Ultimately, the Big 12 never made much sense, especially if the door was always open for a move to the ACC.

How the five-game agreement affects Notre Dame's football schedule remains to be seen, but most likely it means the Irish won't play as many Midwestern opponents going forward. USC, Stanford and Navy are all likely to remain on Notre Dame's schedule, and the Irish are committed to play Arizona State at Cowboys Stadium next year.

Notre Dame and Michigan scheduled a two-year break for 2018 and 2019, and the two schools never officially signed a reported agreement that would lock them in to play each other through 2030. There's certainly a chance Notre Dame uses the ACC as a way to get Michigan -- along with Michigan State andor Purdue -- off their football schedule.

Take the 2013 schedule as an example (assuming the deal begins in 2013 -- Notre Dame only has one ACC opponent on their slate, that being Pittsburgh (which joins the conference next year). Notre Dame will have to fit in four other ACC opponents while likely trying to not drop USC, Stanford, Navy and Arizona State. That makes games against Temple, Michigan, Purdue, Oklahoma, Air Force and BYU up in the air -- the Irish probably won't drop Oklahoma, which they'll play this October in Norman.

Big changes are coming for Notre Dame, but the biggest one was announced Wednesday morning. Stay tuned.

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