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Big news shook the college world yesterday, but did anyone see it coming?
Notre Dame in the ACC?
There are so many angles to take on this analysis I can only imagine how long it took the university to decide this direction.
When fans think of Notre Dame, most would instinctively flock to the historic football program. And why not? Since 1887, the tradition of Irish football has been a staple of the college game and continues to impress (or frustrate) fans to this day.
For those young-uns who are not sure why Notre Dame is such a big deal, the Fighting Irish football program has the fourth most wins (853) in their history trailing only Nebraska, Texas, and Michigan. The Irish also have the fewest amounts of losses for any college or university that has been around for 100 years or more.
That’s impressive for a school, especially one with 104 winning seasons out of 123 years of football. Notre Dame also has the most Heisman Trophy winners (7) of any school (Ohio State has had seven as well but two were won by the same player) and has put a record 48 players and coaches into the College Football Hall of Fame, most of any school.
But enough with the history lessons…
Notre Dame moving to the ACC is a big deal here and now. The biggest part of the agreement was that the Irish will remain an independent in football. What does this mean and why is it important?
Being an independent is what makes Notre Dame such an icon in the sport. It would have been foolish for them to take that away by joining a conference (especially one that is as weak in football as the ACC). ND as an independent can schedule the toughest teams in the nation without having to make room for eight or nine games just in conference play.
With that in mind, Notre Dame WILL be playing a conference schedule of sorts. The university has agreed to play five games a year against conference foes. Because the ACC is no bowl-eligible, the Irish will be in the same boat they were in without being in a conference and they still have plenty of schedule to dedicate to the traditions that have enriched rivalries over the years.
Rest easy fans, Notre Dame will not be throwing out Navy or USC anytime soon. I also think that the school will find a compromise with other traditions like Michigan, Purdue, or Ohio State. Perhaps they will rotate years with the other schools.
Long story short, this was a football move. That seems funny seeing as how all sports EXCEPT football have officially agreed to joining the ACC. The truth is, however, that the football program gets the best of both worlds. The Irish keep their independence and still get the feel of a steadier schedule, while the rest of the sports at Notre Dame leave behind the decaying Big East for the always competitive Atlantic Coast Conference.
Most notably, the men’s basketball program keeps their competitive juices flowing in a super conference that contains Duke, North Carolina, etc. and just recently added fellow Big East ditchers Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
With the new super conference alignment, the ACC looks to be the most dominant in college basketball for years to come.
To date, 12 ACC teams have won the national championships since its creation in 1939 when the Oregon Ducks defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 46-33, that’s second most out of any conference with the Pac-10 winning 15 overall. It’s hard to count the Pac-10, however because UCLA won 11 of those including 10 in a 12 year period from 1964-75.
Adding Syracuse, Pitt, and now Notre Dame, the likelihood of another ACC national champion is greatly increased but only Syracuse brings a banner for actually winning one to the conference when a Carmelo Anthony-led 2003 squad won the title game. The Orange were national runners-up three times before winning the big one but neither Notre Dame or Pitt has seen a title game.
I can’t wait to see the finished product of the conference shifts. My guess is that we’ll see the end of a few conferences soon and the beginning of more super conferences. Interesting times we live in.
Happy 60th, Uncle John. Thanks for reading.