The Atlantic Coast Conference captured the jewel school of college realignment, but it hardly was an annexation.
Notre Dame, the school every conference coveted when expansion stormed through the college athletics landscape, announced Wednesday it was joining the ACC for all sports — except football. The Irish will play five football games against the ACC and participate in the ACC’s bowl lineup.
Notre Dame previously was a member of the Big East Conference for all sports except football and earned $5.65 million in conference revenue sharing in 2010, according to the Big East’s 2011 tax statement. The average payment to the ACC’s 12 schools that year was $12.25 million.
As a football independent, Notre Dame still will maintain its exclusive television contract with NBC, which doesn’t expire until 2015. Notre Dame will be required to pay a $5 million exit fee and stay with the Big East for 27 months. But the Big East has allowed other members (West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse) to bolt through a negotiated settlement.
“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,” Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. “This will enable us 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 Notre Dame-ACC marriage should end the explosive phase of realignment among the nation’s six most powerful conferences. Since December 2009, when the Big Ten announced it was actively seeking a 12th member, 18 different schools have shifted among the conferences. Counting Notre Dame, four schools have bolted the Big East with three joining the ACC. Eight schools have joined or will join the Big East through 2015. New Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco told reporters last month he’d like to add one more school by 2015.
The Big Ten twice pursued Notre Dame — once openly in the late 1990s and the other during the recent expansion period. But with Notre Dame’s desired football independence and the Big Ten’s requirement that members play football (Rule 3.1.1), the sides never consummated a deal. The Big Ten invited Nebraska in June 2010, and the school joined July 1, 2011.
“Today’s announcement by the ACC that Notre Dame will join the conference to compete in all sponsored sports with the exception of football was not a surprise,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said in a statement to The Gazette. “Both the Big 12 and the ACC have openly expressed an interest in adding Notre Dame to their conference under such a condition.
“The announcement by the ACC is further indication that the tectonic plates underlying conference affiliation are still warm. As always, we will continue to monitor the landscape.
“We are very pleased with both our current conference membership and our conference structure.”
It’s likely that expansion among the major conferences has subsided. The ACC’s Council of Presidents voted to increase the conference exit fee to three times the annual operating budget, more than $50 million. The Big 12 signed a 13-year television rights deal with ESPN and Fox worth a reportedly $200 million over 13 years. That deal include a “grant of rights” which means the primary and second television revenue rests with the conference, not with the school.
ACC Commisioner John Swofford told reporters that league has no plans to expand beyond Notre Dame. For football, the ACC will remain at 14 teams.
RECENT CONFERENCE ADDITIONS
Big Ten — Nebraska (2011)
Big 12 — Texas Christian (2012), West Virginia (2012)
SEC — Missouri (2012), Texas A&M (2012)
ACC — Syracuse (2013), Pittsburgh (2013), Notre Dame (TBD — all sports but football)
Pac-12 — Colorado (2011), Utah (2011)
Big East — Temple (2012), Central Florida (2013), Memphis (2013), Houston (2013), SMU (2013), San Diego State (2013 — just football), Boise State (2013 — just football), Navy (2015 — just football)
Mountain West — Nevada (2012), Fresno State (2012), Hawaii (2012 — football only), San Jose State (2013), Utah State (2013)
Conference USA — Florida International (2013), North Texas (2013), Louisiana Tech (2013), Texas-San Antonio (2013), UNC-Charlotte (2015), Old Dominion (2015)
Sun Belt — South Alabama (2012), Texas State (2013), Georgia State (2013)
Mid-American — Massachusetts (2012)
Independent — BYU (2011), Idaho (2013), New Mexico State (2013)