Reversing long-standing policy and ending years of courtship, the ACC’s presidents voted unanimously to admit the Fighting Irish for sports other than football. Notre Dame will play five football games annually against ACC programs on a rotating basis.
ESPN’s Brett McMurphy broke the news moments before the ACC and Notre Dame issued joint statements.
Conference presidents also voted to more than double the league’s exit fee, to more than $50 million, a move that should end the senseless chatter of schools leaving.
The ACC had long resisted this move, maintaining an all-in-or-not-in-at-all stance. Meanwhile, Notre Dame stubbornly insisted on maintaining its football independence.
But with a playoff coming to college football and conference landscapes ever shifting, ACC commissioner John Swofford softened that hard line in July, reflecting the views of league officials such as Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver.
“I think we should gobble them up in a New York second and worry about football down the line,” Weaver told me last month. “There’s so many similarities to the academic side of the house and the Olympic sports side of the house, and the basketball side of the house, both men and women. …
“I think it’s a grand slam home run for the ACC. You only get so many opportunities to hit a grand slam home run. Can you imagine what (they’d) add in terms of the … TV contracts?”
Hearing how the ACC will divide revenue from its ESPN contract will be an intriguing part of the news conference scheduled for 12:30 p.m., in Chapel Hill.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, was concerned about football scheduling, and five annual games against ACC programs provides the Irish stability.
When Notre Dame will leave the Big East for the ACC is unclear. The Big East's Pittsburgh and Syracuse were announced as ACC members last September but won't move until next year because of Big East bylaws.
In pursuing Notre Dame, the ACC had several connections to the school. Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch worked for 30 years at Notre Dame, North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham is a graduate, and Duke athletic director Kevin White is a former AD there.
Here are some statements from the principals:
“We are committed to keeping the Atlantic Coast Conference a vibrant and competitive league dedicated to ensuring the appropriate balance of academics, athletics and integrity,” said the ACC Council of Presidents jointly. “The addition of Notre Dame further strengthens the rich tradition and culture of the ACC as well as allowing for future academic collaboration and we enthusiastically welcome them into the league.”
From commisioner John Swofford: “The ACC was founded on the cornerstones of balancing academics, athletics and integrity. Our partnership with Notre Dame only strengthens this long-standing commitment. Notre Dame enhances the league’s unique blend of public and private institutions that are international in scope. The collective alumni and fan bases cover the entire country with exceptionally strong roots up and down the Atlantic Coast. This is a terrific milestone in the evolution of the ACC and showcases tremendous solidarity and vision by our Council of Presidents.”
From Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins: “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. 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.”
And Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick: “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. 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.”
Much more coming after the news conference.
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