Why Notre Dame will never be a full-time ACC member

notre dameNotre Dame has no incentive to join the ACC as a full football member, not in the near future, the near future being through 2025.

After that?

It’s not so much that the ACC needs Notre Dame, as ESPN.

Let the bidding war between ESPN and NBC commence, right?

First, to where we are now.

Notre Dame makes $15 million a year from its solo TV deal with NBC, which is a lot, but is less than the $29.5 million the ACC pays out to its members for football.

A more complete accounting of what Notre Dame brings in includes its $7.9 million partial share from the ACC and the $3.19 million that it is guaranteed from the College Football Playoff, plus any extra money that the school gets from bowl and CFP appearances.

In the end, it seems to just about even out for Notre Dame, in terms of what it would get if it was a full ACC football member.

And then there’s this: the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2019, Notre Dame brought in $118 million in football-related revenue, and Forbes had the program in 2018 posting a $72 million profit.

Notre Dame, in other words, is doing just fine, thanks.

Now, to the ACC, and ESPN.

The earliest the ACC could get Notre Dame as a full football member would be after the 2025 season, when the current deal with NBC expires.

In the meantime, we get five Notre Dame ACC games as part of the arrangement that brought the school into the league for everything else.

The ACC and ESPN get the rights to the ACC home games – three this year, two next year, four, supposedly, in 2023, though I don’t know how that one works out.

Three games a year, roughly.

Beginning in 2024, ESPN has the rights to SEC football, which is significant in this sense, because Notre Dame opens the 2024 season at Texas A&M, and in 2025, travels, for some reason, to Arkansas for a September date.

Those games, no doubt, will be in prime time.

If ESPN could get its hands on Notre Dame’s full home TV rights, the Irish would be prime time every week.

Expect ESPN to be a bidder in the next couple of years when the next TV deal for Notre Dame comes up.

Don’t assume, though, that either Notre Dame or ESPN, if they were to come to an agreement, would want to see any kind of a change in Notre Dame’s independent status.

Look ahead to the early scheduling for the coming years for your clue there.

USC and Navy every year. Wisconsin in 2021 and 2026. Ohio State in 2022 and 2023. Texas A&M in 2024 and 2025. Stanford each of the next four years.

There’s chaff, sure – Toledo, Purdue and Cincinnati in 2021; Marshall, Cal and UNLV in 2022; Central Michigan in 2023; Northern Illinois and Purdue in 2024.

You could replace those games with second- and third-tier ACC games, especially as the CFP expands to 12 in the coming years, which should see us getting away from scheduling non-conference patsies in favor of more high-power intersectional matchups, given that the big boys can risk losing a game or two in a 12-team playoff that they can’t afford to risk in a four-team CFP.

There would be a similar incentive, though, to keep Notre Dame at its current five-team ACC arrangement, and use the other seven to add a couple more high-profile games.

ESPN, were it to get the Notre Dame home rights, would be incentivized to push for home-and-homes with its SEC clients, for example.

Notre Dame-Alabama, Notre Dame-LSU, Notre Dame-Georgia – or Notre Dame-Duke, Notre Dame-Boston College, Notre Dame-Georgia Tech.

To borrow from John McEnroe, you cannot be serious.

Bottom line, either way, Notre Dame and the ACC full-time ain’t happenin’.

Story by Chris Graham

 


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