Pitt got over the hump this week, of sorts, with news that fellow Big East member Notre Dame would be joining them and Syracuse in the ACC.
Different from the move of Pitt and Syracuse, however, Notre Dame will not join for football. The Irish will remain independent for football and hockey, but will be an ACC member for the rest of its sports.
The move may not factor much for Notre Dame, who already attracts one of the most unique schedules in college football every year. Annual games with Navy, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Stanford, Boston College and USC are considered rivalry games for both schools. It’s unknown yet if the Irish will discontinue any of those series, or how the move to the ACC would even affect them. However, here is their situation in this new ACC.
The Irish have a five-game series with Oklahoma and Texas on the horizon. It’s very unlikely they will cancel either. One, for two big-name opponents like that, how could you? Two, with opponents like that, is there really a pressure on the part of the Irish to change their schedule at this point for the ACC.
When they do join the conference, they will play five ACC opponents in football every year. Also, those five opponents will cycle. According to this agreement with ACC and Notre Dame, the Irish is required to play each team once every three years. In this case, if Notre Dame were to continue its annual series with Boston College and Pitt, well, it wouldn’t happen. Not to mention, it would be tough for Notre Dame to live up to this agreement of playing each team once every three years.
Notre Dame keeping their independence in football was a factor throughout this whole process. ACC administrators and Notre Dame administrators knew this. In the end, Notre Dame got to keep something they hold above all else. This, despite ACC Commissioner John Swofford referring to the conference as being an ‘all-in’ membership.
“The University of Notre Dame has an identity that was formed over a long period, from the days of Rockne,” Notre Dame President, Father John Jenkins said. “We have more fans in Massachusetts and New York and Ohio than in Indiana. We didn’t feel we could give that up without losing our identity in some way, and we’re just deeply grateful to the ACC who have been such great partners in recognizing that.”
Swofford made reference to the ‘all-in’ factor, but also pointed out the changing landscape as reason to accept Notre Dame as a non-football member.
“We have always been an all-in, if you will, membership,” Swofford said. “And in more recent years we’ve discussed this with a changing landscape out there in intercollegiate athletics, a changing world.”
Pitt and Notre Dame have their annual football series going through to 2016. It is unclear if that game—since already pre-arranged—if that will already count as one of the five Notre Dame-ACC games. Currently, the Irish have Boston College, Miami, Wake Forest and Syracuse—conveniently five teams—in addition to Pittsburgh on future schedules.
“At this point, we don’t know how this is all going to play out,” Pederson said, referring to the future of the series. “We’ve enjoyed the Notre Dame series. We’re also looking forward to welcoming back Penn State.”
When it comes to affecting Pitt, that’s where the Panthers will be impacted the most. Much like the current arrangement with the Big East, Notre Dame—even though they’re independent in football—they will fall in line with some of the ACC bowl tie-ins. This ACC agreement is different from the Big East one, from the sounds of it. For Notre Dame to be picked ahead of an ACC member school, in a bowl bid, Notre Dame either has to be ranked higher, equal to, or be within a game of a team about them in the win column. In other words, If Pitt were to finish 8-4, and Notre Dame 6-6—Pitt would get preference. An 8-4 Pitt team against a 7-5 Notre Dame team, Notre Dame likely gets the higher bowl bid based on its name and how well the school travels.
“I’ve always felt having Notre Dame in the bowl mix, helps our ability to get bowls,” Pederson said. “I feel like every time we’ve brought Notre Dame into our bowl mix, we’ve gotten better bowls. I think the ACC will only strengthen and grow; not only the number of bowls, but the quality of bowls.”
This is also a bowl agreement that in some weird way, can result in an ACC Champion facing Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. That’s correct—an all-ACC Orange Bowl, since Notre Dame won’t be participating in the football side of it.
“There is the possibility of an ACC-Notre Dame Orange Bowl in addition to the five-per-season ACC-Notre Dame football games,” Swofford explained. “Notre Dame would keep all of any revenues that it generated from playing in any one of the other five BCS games. The ACC would keep its revenues from those games that go into the sharing pot, actually.”
Notre Dame will finish out their remaining contract TV contract with NBC, which along with the upcoming Texas/Oklahoma series, also points to the Irish not joining the conference until their waiting period of 27 months is up with the Big East. Their NBC contract is up in 2015. That’s plenty of time, and all the more leverage the ACC can have in extending its current TV deal with ESPN.
Currently, the Irish contract with NBC is in the neighborhood of $15 million a year. The new ACC deal negotiated to include Pitt and Syracuse is believed to be in the $17 million ballpark for each school. Right away, Notre Dame realizes that $17 million is greater than $15 million.
Here’s where it could get confusing. All parties are likely on to a bigger pay day. Notre Dame—since they are remaining independent--will still collect their own TV revenue under their NBC contract. The way it’s going to work now, according to Swofford, is that Notre Dame will keep all their revenues through NBC until 2015. They will obviously have the choice to renew, but will have some more options—especially with ESPN coming through with the ACC deal to include Pitt and Syracuse. Football games hosted in South Bend, that revenue goes to Notre Dame. Football revenues at another ACC school, goes to that ACC school. For basketball, there would be 15 shares including Notre Dame. The conference has arranged 80 percent of all television revenues to go to football and the other 20 to basketball. Under this, Notre Dame will receive 1/15th of 20 percent for being a basketball member.
Don’t think that the ACC or Notre Dame will stop right there. Notre Dame, the ACC, the current ACC members and whatever network lands the deal will be on their way to a bigger pay day. In the end, that’s probably the biggest area of impact this move will have.
“In terms of (the ACC), we’ll be in discussions with our television partner, because there’s some games of value that will be added to our inventory there,” Swofford said. “And so I think there will be some enhancement to that. We’ll have to wait and see exactly what that will be. Obviously, we feel positively about that in terms of our analysis and, as I said earlier, how we look at that and evaluate it going forward.”