This week Notre Dame announced its football team will be joining the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Jordan Schultz, who blogs about sports for the Huffington Post, joined Bill Littlefield to discuss the impact of this change.
BL: This means Notre Dame will play five games against ACC opponents. How does that constitute a change in the way Notre Dame football has historically done business?
JS: If you look at Notre Dame over the years, they’ve always beaten their own drum. This is a program that is very proud and if you look at their schedule, even this season, it’s probably the toughest schedule in the country. You look at who they’re playing: it doesn’t really get easy for them.
If you move forward with the ACC, which is going to happen no later than 2015, the advantage for them is now they can tie-in automatically with the Orange Bowl, which is the ACC’s automatic bid. You also have the playoffs. If they’re an independent, they don’t automatically have the ability to get in that top four, but if they’re in the ACC — even if they’re playing half an ACC schedule — they can get into that four-team playoff at the end of the season.
BL: Notre Dame has not won a national title in 24 years. They’ve never won a BCS Bowl Game. What does the conference have to gain by including them?
JS: Notre Dame is such a brand. They played Navy in Ireland just a couple weeks ago and they had 40,000 people go see that game from America. That is very rare. If you look at what Notre Dame can bring you: it’s a cache. Yes, they haven’t won in 24 years, and they’re not exactly what they used to be. This is a program that still has a cache of a national program that is still well-known for football.
They dominated for so long. They won eight AP championships in 46 years. They have Knute Rockne and Lou Holtz and all these great coaches as well as the great players. They’re always going to draw. Even if they’re not winning eight, nine games—they’re still Notre Dame.
BL: How does this affect Notre Dame’s teams in other sports?
JS: I think it helps them. If you look at the basketball team, they’re a perennial top 25 club. They’ve done really well with soccer and women’s and men’s basketball. The ACC has long been known as a basketball league.
The football team is the only team that’s not playing a full ACC schedule. Financially, college football is still a big money deal, so this helps them get that ACC money as opposed to being a complete independent as they have been for so long.
Part of this deal for them is that it’s no longer enough just to have an NBC contract and play on national TV every week. This helps them gain more relevance by having an affiliation with a league that is really improving.
BL: You suggested in an article this week that joining the ACC may be an indication that Notre Dame has finally recognized that time has changed since the days of Knute Rockne. How so?
JS: Traditionally, this program has been so proud. But, at the same time, that’s been their downfall. They have an archaic administration—at least that’s always been the way people look at them. For as great as they’ve been, they’ve never won a BCS bowl game. They haven’t been to one in five years.
They needed to make a change, because clearly it wasn’t working. They hadn’t been able to recruit the way they used to. Kids no longer just go to Notre Dame because it’s Notre Dame. That’s why I think this move, while certainly questionable, is a move the administration should be lauded for, because it’s something that I think has been coming for a long time.
BL: Notre Dame has, as you’ve pointed out, been independent, and that has worked out well for them financially: they’ve been able to make their own deals with the television coverage. How does that change?
JS: Well, they’re most likely going to have that NBC deal where they’re on TV every week. … It’s a little early to tell exactly how [the realignment will] play in, but it will help them financially, I don’t think there’s any question about that.