Why Notre Dame Football Will Not Join a Conference

It’s mid-May, somewhat of a dead period on the world of college football. So of course the topic of conference expansion is being brought up. Sure enough, Notre Dame football is involved in the conversation.

On a radio show I heard last week, conference expansion was brought up again, as the TV rights deals will be up for a lot of conferences in 2022. Of course, that prompted one of the hosts to bring up why Notre Dame football will eventually have to join the ACC.

It would make sense from the ACC’s point of view, Notre Dame is already in the conference for most sports.

Without going too much into non-Notre Dame movement, hypothetically, it sounds like the Big 12 really is the conference that won’t be around IF another big movement happens. From an ACC point of view, Notre Dame and West Virginia would be the two best options to form the “16 team super conference” that seems to be the talk. Both are geographic fits, and reuniting old rivalries (WVU-Pitt) plus a consistent Notre Dame-Miami or Florida State rivalry would certainly benefit the ACC.

But back the the Irish side of things….

Notre Dame joining the ACC is not going to happen. Notre Dame stands to lose way too much if they were to join a conference. Among the many reasons not to join, one stands out as the ultimate reason:

Money.

Notre Dame makes a reported $15 million annually with NBC to televise home football games in an agreement that was extended in 2013. The deal runs through 2025.

If Notre Dame were to join a conference, a certain amount of money would have to be spread through the conference, something that already happens in basketball and other conference sports.

Basically, if Florida State vs Notre Dame is televised on ESPN, Boston College gets part of that money.

Notre Dame already plays five ACC opponents per year on a deal which runs through the 2037 season. This bleeds into another issue — scheduling.

If the Irish were to strike a deal to move full time to the ACC, they would end up playing eight conference games per season. Think about what this would do to the rest of the schedule.

This leaves four open games. The Navy series isn’t going anywhere. I can’t see USC being removed from the schedule, and Stanford likely is staying put. That leaves one open scheduling slot per year.

Notre Dame already plays a quality schedule, and it doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Future games are scheduled with Texas A&M, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Alabama, just to name a few. Most of these games wouldn’t fit on the schedule in an ACC world.

This also correlates to the original argument — money. Notre Dame is a name brand, and obviously can draw on its own. But it’s a simple fact that a game between the Irish and Alabama or Ohio State will bring in more attention and money than a game between Notre Dame and Syracuse. The best part? Because of the NBC deal, Notre Dame doesn’t have to share that money with anybody.

As for the “13th data point,” argument, where a team “needs” a conference title game, that seems to be a non issue. Yes, the Big 12 added a title game, but Oklahoma made the Playoff when the conference didn’t have one. The committee does seem to like that, but at the end of the day, compare schedules and honestly tell me an Oklahoma win over Tulane is more impressive than a Notre Dame win against Michigan.

At the end of the day, the best place for the Irish to be — for the program fans alike — is right where they are as an independent.