In a move that caught probably all ACC fans off-guard on Wednesday morning, Commissioner John Swofford announced that the conference will add Notre Dame as a partial member. The Irish are already joining Boston College in Hockey East, but they will now be aligned with the Eagles in all other sports – except, of course, football.
It could be two more seasons before Notre Dame completes the move, as Big East rules stipulate a 27-month window. They held Syracuse and Pittsburgh to it as those two programs tried to flee, but West Virginia paid more to get out early. Speaking of exit fees, in equally-important news, the ACC raised theirs to over $50 million, meaning everybody currently in the conference will almost certainly stay put.
There are a couple different things to take out of this announcement, the shockwaves of which are going to rip through the BC fanbase all day. First, getting this out of the way, the ACC is an excellent academic conference made better by Notre Dame’s entry. Including Boston College and Notre Dame, there are some fine schools there, including Duke, Wake Forest, and Virginia. The Irish had a better home here academically than just about anywhere else.
Onto the football side of it, and that’s the one about which most will be wondering. Personally, I am not in love with the “partial member” business, but Notre Dame is adamant about retaining their independence. Notre Dame will, however, become what essentially amounts to a partial football member, committing to play five ACC teams a year on a rotating basis. One would imagine that BC will be one of them at fairly regular intervals. For our school on that front, nothing will change.
This creates a bit of a logistical issue in all of the other sports, as the ACC will go to 15 members. That would be difficult to schedule and causes problems in, say, designing a bracket for the ACC Tournament in basketball. If Notre Dame refuses to go for a full membership, the ACC may have to add a 16th school as a non-football member. This would keep football at 14 teams and even out all other sports at 16. The ACC will probably have to go this route for now, and your guess is as good as mine as to who that will be. One scenario is that the ACC raids the Big East again for one of their basketball schools, perhaps Villanova or Georgetown. The other scenario is that Notre Dame eventually gives in and becomes a full member, and they eventually might, in which case the ACC adds another full member and becomes a viable 16-team conference. Either way, the ACC isn’t sitting at 15 in anything.
There are BC fans out there right now looking for some upshot to this deal, aside from a few of the things mentioned and getting to play our rivals across all sports. One that I came up with is that with Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and now Notre Dame coming aboard, Boston College really does not have to worry about the geographical isolation thing anymore. For years, BC was on an island with the nearest school being Maryland, but there are three other northern schools in the mix. Another upside for Eagles fans who hold grudges is that this is probably very bad news for UConn and their attempt to jump into the conference.
This story has only begun to unfold.