Late last week, Fox Sports announcer Tim Brando told the “Louisville Sports Live” podcast that Notre Dame has had conversations about its football team joining the ACC as a full member. On Tuesday, Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick shot that down.
“Absolutely not true,” Swarbrick said at the ACC spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fla., as reported by the Orlando Sentinel’s Matt Murschel. “We love the ACC, but we love our relationship the way it is and there hasn’t been any discussion.”
As it stands now, the Fighting Irish are full ACC members in all sports except football, though Notre Dame plays five football games per season against conference teams as part of the 2014 agreement it reached with the ACC. The program maintains its partial football independence thanks to the television deal it has with NBC, which runs through 2025 and pays the school $15 million annually.
But here’s the thing: Notre Dame would make more money annually as a full-fledged ACC football member, and it would make significantly more money as a full football member once ESPN gets the ACC Network off the ground in 2019. But would a bigger payday be enough to entice tradition-shackled Notre Dame into a football conference affiliation? Swarbrick is saying right now that it isn’t, but what happens if — sometime between now and 2025 — an undefeated or one-loss Notre Dame team is passed over for a College Football Playoff berth simply because it doesn’t play in a conference championship game?
Should football independence become a millstone around the Fighting Irish’s neck, Swarbrick’s denials might be a little less forceful or at least taken with a bigger grain of salt.