With the recent announcement that Notre Dame will be joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports but football, college football fans are left wondering about the landscape of their sacred game. And with all of the conference realignments and possible future conference shifts, how does Notre Dame’s move impact college football?
Well, Notre Dame still remains an independent in football, but the agreement with the ACC will allow the Fighting Irish to schedule five games against ACC opponents every year. The plus? Notre Dame can renew old rivalries with the likes of Miami Hurricanes and the Florida State Seminoles, both of which played some very meaningful games against ND in the 1990s.
The negatives? Some of the Irish’s traditional rivalries, like the “battle of the Catholics” (Boston College Eagles), will likely end. Some rivalries will continue and the university has announced that it will keep its annual contests with Navy Midshipmen, USC Trojans, and Stanford Cardinals. Years ago, it was Navy that bailed Notre Dame out of a financial crisis and the Irish will never forget the gesture.
With the current 12-game schedule allowed by the NCAA, Notre Dame will play the five ACC opponents, Navy, USC, and Stanford, and still have room for four more games each year. Traditional opponents Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans, and Purdue, all of the Big Ten, will likely remain on the schedule, though not yearly. Pittsburgh Panthers, which ND has played every year since 1982, is moving to the ACC and will continue to be on the schedule, though the Panthers may not be a yearly opponent either.
In scheduling opponents, it is important to the university to maintain a national awareness of the Notre Dame brand. Keeping USC and Stanford brings the West Coast, ND is already a fixture in the Midwest, and now with the ACC gig, the Irish will be able to have a presence in the largest media markets in the United States.
In the grand scheme of college football, Notre Dame’s move to the ACC really doesn’t change anything. The Irish will not be a full-fledged member of the conference and, other than facing a few new opponents each year, the schedule will not change that much. They may get a few extra wins per year playing the Marylands and Dukes of the league, but get a chance to renew some old rivalries (Miami and Florida State) and keep another (Pitt).