They were just sitting there.
Notre Dame just sitting there, waiting for someone to act. Biding time as the conference reshuffling hit a brief point of stability. Waiting for the perfect deal to come around, then make their move. And it was the ACC that provided it to them. Full membership without full membership. A step up for all their sports, but maintaining independence in the one they care the most about. A new feather in the cap of the ACC, who has the easiest marketing hook in college sports under their umbrella. And the Big Ten was…where?
The stubborn mule that is Jim Delany wouldn’t budge. For years, the Big Ten has tried to lure Notre Dame into its world, but under one condition…football has to join, too. With Notre Dame’s television deal, they weren’t going to sacrifice that money and enter a media revenue sharing program like the Big Ten has. And why would they? As annoying as it is to college football fans, Notre Dame has a unique outlet in front of them, and they take advantage of it.
You can certainly understand why the Big Ten wanted full acceptance from Notre Dame. But take a look at the new agreement with the ACC. The Irish will play five ACC opponents each season, join the ACC’s non-BCS bowl agreements AND keep their independent BCS (or whatever the devil that thing will be called) bowl contract. Notre Dame will also have to schedule every ACC team at least once every three years, ensuring maximum exposure to the conference. Which means growth in ticket and TV revenues (even with the NBC contract), and a hook, line and sinker recruiting angle. Really, the only thing the ACC isn’t getting out of Notre Dame is the media revenue sharing the Big Ten craved. One more fun fact about this deal…the ACC can now re-work their TV contracts since the NBC deal is only for Notre Dame home games. The conference can jack up the price for any road game the Irish play in conference and spread it out amongst the other schools.
And a deal like this wouldn’t have been hard to pull off for Delany, either. The Irish already have three Big Ten teams on their schedule this season AND the next two seasons, plus two in 2015. Longer standing rivalries with Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State that don’t exist in the ACC. A game against Northwestern (Chicago’s Big Ten Team!) lurks on the horizon. The transition would have been flat out seamless if Delany had been forward thinking enough to try it. And for a conference that’s being laughed at around the sport, the mere presence of Notre Dame would have reversed at least some of the criticism, even if it is just for five games.
Beyond football (which is hard to consider, I know), think about the addition Notre Dame would be in basketball. They’ve been a borderline power since Mike Brey took over, and think of all the fun revenue sharing that would exist there in conference! Now the ACC asserts itself as the best basketball conference in the nation, and it’s not even close.
Oh, and there is one other sport that Notre Dame isn’t joining the ACC in…hockey. The ACC doesn’t have a hockey conference. But, wouldn’t you know it? Big Ten Hockey starts in 2013. That would have been a nice little addition, wouldn’t you say?
Instead, Jim Delany rocks in his chair while watching all the kids wreak havoc on his lawn. For a guy who started this conference realignment mess, he has become suddenly passive. If we ever get to a point where the super conferences become a reality, the Big Ten has missed their chance at the biggest fish in the sea. The cool kid that lives just down the block from you is moving. A little creativity would have prevented that.
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