Three Things: Notre Dame To ACC
1. There is one and only one meaningful reason for Notre Dame becoming a partial member of the ACC: m-o-n-e-y. Before you consider anything else, you have to think about the money. The league's current package is worth $3.6 billion over the next 15 years. But that's just a starting point for a renegotiated new deal that would include the Irish. In case you've lost count, the conference is currently at 15 schools, counting Notre Dame. That's an unwieldy number, and you have to think another school will be added relatively soon. The identity of that school really doesn't matter. Rutgers has been mentioned as bringing part of the New York television market, but Notre Dame does that, too. Connecticut might be the best fit from an athletics and fan base perspective. But really, once you add Notre Dame, the next school could be Meredith and the television honchos would still be happy. The current league TV contract scorecard on a per-team, per-year basis is: Pac-12 $21 million/year, Big XII $20.3 million/year, ACC $17 million/year. The SEC is currently renegotiating its contract and will reportedly have a new deal by the end of the year, which will likely top all the other figures. It's interesting to read the Notre Dame take on this: "if we were doing it for money, we would've joined the Big Ten." This will get reported as a football move, but it appears different from the South Bend viewpoint. One other key point: Notre Dame's NBC deal expires in 2015.
2. The Irish will reportedly play five football games against ACC opponents per year. So before you book your ticket for South Bend (and it's a great trip, as Tar Heel fans learned in 2006), consider that under the reported structure, each ACC school will only play the Irish once every three years, and will only host the Irish once every six years. Of course, the prevailing theory here has to be that when Notre Dame finally gives up its football independence--which might be tough to do, given their lucrative television deal with NBC--they'll simply join the ACC. That's what the Big East thought, too, when it accepted the Irish as a partial member in 1995. Instead, Notre Dame motored along for nearly 20 years, gleefully cashing its NBC checks and enjoying the fruits of Big East membership in other sports. So before anyone passes judgment on this move, they need to consider not what Notre Dame could mean to ACC football, but also what Notre Dame means--good and bad--to every other sport in the conference. A 16-team league, if indeed that's what is to come, almost certainly has to be split into at least two divisions for scheduling purposes.
3. This seems, on its face, like an automatic home run. But here's the one thing we've learned from expansion: the initial impression is almost never right. Virginia Tech was the ACC afterthought and has ended up being by far the best fit in the league. Miami was the prize and, well, it hasn't turned out that way. It wasn't too long ago that Texas A&M looked like an expansion afterthought...now they're sitting in the SEC and giddily counting their television checks. So you're going to read a lot in the coming days about how the ACC has fleeced every other conference in aligning with the Irish. But let's wait and see how the entire process works out first. In the recent expansion process, it's the initial move that sets up the subsequent surprising moves that might not have been considered a possibility before. The biggest news might turn out to be the ACC increasing the exit fee to $50 million, a major deterrent for any school looking elsewhere and--presumably--securing the league for the future.