Notre Dame has made its move, partnering up with the ACC.
In the immediate aftermath, the Big Ten stays put. The Big East is still hanging on by a thread. The Big 12 remains in a holding pattern.
Remember, it’s all about the best interest of the student-athletes.
Notre Dame will join the ACC in all sports except football, but the Irish will play five ACC opponents in a year and be in the ACC’s bowl rotation.
Basically, Notre Dame joined the ACC for football without actually having to play in a division and without getting to play Duke and Syracuse every year. The old guard at Notre Dame never has wanted a football conference, and new coach Brian Kelly didn’t ever want to feel stuck recruiting just from the Midwest — especially if he was going to be in competition with Michigan and Michigan State on more than just one Saturday a year. Such commitment issues stand as two of the reasons the longtime flirtation between Notre Dame and the Big Ten never became an actual relationship.
It’s pretty clear that geography means little in the new world order of college sports.
By maintaining its football independence* and longtime rivalries while expanding its recruiting and television footprint to the South, this move allows Notre Dame to get close to the best for its past and future. Its basketball program goes from one strong conference to another. Travel bills for all other sports go up. TV money and football money will take care of those, and football is still what’s driving all this.
Notre Dame Football isn’t what it once was and might not ever be that again, but Notre Dame Football still matters. Especially on TV.
Notre Dame vs. Miami-Florida, Florida State and to a lesser extent Pitt and Virginia Tech on a consistent basis is good for football fans and the aforementioned TV money. It’s even better when it doesn’t interfere with Notre Dame-USC, Notre Dame-Michigan and Notre Dame-Navy at various neutral sites.
What this move means for other conferences and potential conference-movers remains unclear. The Big Ten almost certainly stays at 12 teams for the foreseeable future. Florida State now probably stays put in the ACC. Louisville remains a possibility for the Big 12, and several other dominoes potentially could fall. Or, maybe they won’t.
Losing Notre Dame is a big loss for the Big East, even if it didn’t fit in the conference’s football structure. Remember, the structure of the Big East changes next year when it adds San Diego State and Boise State for football only and replaces new ACC members Pitt and Syracuse with Memphis, Temple, Central Florida, Houston and SMU. Sounds like the league should change its name to Big Mess, right?
Now, the Big East has another basketball opening. And all its members — Louisville and Cincinnati, especially — have to keep their options open. There’s even the possibility of this move opening the door for a strong basketball program like Xavier, Saint Louis, VCU or Butler to join the Big East.
Hell, if San Diego State can play Big East football, is Gonzaga playing Big East basketball any crazier of an idea?
This puts the ACC at 15 teams for basketball, which isn’t ideal but isn’t terrible like an odd number for football would be. The ACC can shop for a 16th basketball-playing member — hello, Georgetown? — but doesn’t need one.
As with prior big moves, we’ll see how it goes.
This major realignment might not be over yet.