Notre Dame is off to the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports except football and hockey, the University and the ACC announced Wednesday. The move means the Irish will leave the Big East, which it joined in 1995.
The football program will now play five games a season against the ACC, committing to play each school at least once every three years.
“This approach allows us to help promote ACC football while maintaining our traditional rivalries and a national schedule,” said Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.
Swarbrick said Notre Dame wants to maintain a road game in California to end each season so games against USC and Stanford will stay on the schedule each year. Navy will also remain an every year opponent. Everyone else will be determined acoordingly but Swarbrick admitted not every rivalry game will be able to be played each season.
The Irish will also be a part of the ACC’s non-BCS bowl package, meaning Notre Dame will no longer have to start scrambling if it doesn't make it to the BCS. If ND does make it to the BCS, they will be in position along with the SEC or Big Ten to play in the Orange Bowl against an ACC opponent.
The move to the ACC does not affect Notre Dame’s longstanding partnership with NBC Sports. The change in affiliation is “essentially revenue neutral,” Swarbrick said. “Financial implications were not a motivation.”
The timetable for the move will depend on how Notre Dame negotiates its 27-month, $5 million buyout with the Big East conference. As it stands now, the 27-month figure puts Notre Dame in the ACC starting during the 2015/16 season. However, Swarbrick acknowledged Wednesday the University's desire to move the timetable forward, which usually involves a larger buyout. Swarbrick said "sooner than later" is best for all involved.
When all is worked out, Notre Dame will become the 15th member of the ACC.
“We have monitored the changing conference landscape for many months and have concluded that moving to the ACC is the best course of action for us,” Swarbrick said. “This will enable us to maintain our historic independence in football, join in the ACC’s non-BCS bowl package, and provide a new and extremely competitive home for our other sports.
“We are immensely grateful to the members of the Big East, which has been a wonderful home for us the past 17 years. We also think that the conference has a strong future under the leadership of its new commissioner, Mike Aresco.”
“The ACC was founded on the cornerstones of balancing academics, athletics and integrity,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford. “Our partnership with Notre Dame only strengthens this long-standing commitment. Notre Dame enhances the league’s unique blend of public and private institutions that are international in scope. The collective alumni and fan bases cover the entire country with exceptionally strong roots up and down the Atlantic Coast. This is a terrific milestone in the evolution of the ACC and showcases tremendous solidarity and vision by our Council of Presidents.”
In addition to the athletic component, Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said the ACC offers other advantages.
“The ACC is composed of some of the most highly respected universities in the country, and we at Notre Dame look forward to joining them,” Father Jenkins said. “With a mix of institutions – many of which are also private, similar to Notre Dame in size, and committed to excellence in research and undergraduate education – the ACC is an exceptionally good fit for us academically, as well as athletically.”
Father Jenkins added: “It is our hope that, over time, we will be able to explore the possibility of academic collaboration as well as athletic competition with these outstanding universities.”
“We are committed to keeping the Atlantic Coast Conference a vibrant and competitive league dedicated to ensuring the appropriate balance of academics, athletics and integrity,” the ACC Council of Presidents said in a joint statement. “The addition of Notre Dame further strengthens the rich tradition and culture of the ACC as well as allowing for future academic collaboration and we enthusiastically welcome them into the league.”
Current ACC members are Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Pittsburgh and Syracuse will join the ACC on July 1, 2013.
In addition to extending an invitation to Notre Dame, the Council of Presidents voted to increase the conference exit fees to three times the annual operating budget. Currently this would equate to an exit fee of over $50 million.
Among the 12 current ACC institutions, seven rank among the top 38 universities in the U.S. News & World Report survey “America’s Best Colleges” and five are members of the Association of American Universities.
ACC institutions are located in four of the top 10 most populated metropolitan areas in the country and, once Pittsburgh and Syracuse become members, will be in nine states up and down the eastern third of the United States.
Since the conference’s inception in 1953, ACC schools have captured 127 NCAA championships, including 67 in women’scompetition and 60 in men’s. In addition, NCAA individual titles have gone to ACC student-athletes 145 times in men’s competition and 104 times in women’s action. Four conference schools won NCAA championships in 2011-12, and two finished in the top 10 in last year’s Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings.
The Notre Dame football team is among the most storied in college sports, with 11 consensus national championships, seven Heisman Trophy winners, and more All-Americans and Hall of Famers than any other program in the country. Father Jenkins said during Wednesday's press conference that Notre Dame wanted to preserve that tradition by remaining independent.
"We didn't feel we could give that up without losing a part of our identity in some way," he said. He went on to add that Notre Dame is "deeply committed to the ACC."
ACC Commissioner John Swofford cited the "changing landscape and changing world" as when asked why the conference made an exception to its all-or-nothing policy. "What was best 20 years ago isn't necessarily best in today's world," Swofford said. He went on to clarify that there is no plan in place for Notre Dame to join for football in the future, nor are there plans to add a 16th team.
Notre Dame’s NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) figure for all student-athletes has ranked No. 1 among FBS institutions each of the last four years, and the Irish football team’s GSR has ranked No. 1 for three straight years.
Within the Big East Conference, Notre Dame has won 116 titles, more than any other school since the University’s entry in 1995-96, including 14 in women’s swimming and diving, 11 in women’s soccer, 11 in women’s tennis, nine in rowing, nine in volleyball, eight in men’s golf, and eight in men’s outdoor track and field.
Nationally, the Irish women’s soccer team and combined fencing teams won national championships in the 2010-11 academic year, the women’s basketball team has played for the national title the last two years, men’s basketball has earned three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, and the men’s lacrosse team has played in the final four two of the last three years.
The Notre Dame hockey team will move to Hockey East after a final season in 2012-13 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.