Notre Dame is leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports but football.
The school said Wednesday that it will play five football games annually against the league’s programs, facing each ACC member at least once every three years. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement that the Irish will also have access to the ACC’s non-BCS bowl tie-ins.
“This approach allows us to help promote ACC football while maintaining our traditional rivalries and a national schedule,” he said.
The move means the Irish can maintain football independence, while the ACC is making an exception to its all-or-nothing requirement for schools to be full members.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement the move was “a terrific milestone in the evolution of the ACC and showcases tremendous solidarity and vision by our Council of Presidents.”
“It’s a marquee brand and any time you add a marquee brand to your established tradition and the wonderful stuff you have, it enhances it,” Boston College football coach Frank Spaziani said Wednesday morning.
Along with inviting Notre Dame, the ACC also says it has increased its exit fees for the conference’s schools to three times the league’s annual operation budget — which would currently come to more than $50 million.
It was unclear when the realignment will take effect. The Big East has a 27-month notification period for any member that wants to leave, and a $5 million exit fee.
But the Big East has also shown a willingness to negotiate an early exit, as it did with Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who are scheduled to join the Big East next year. The Big East received $7.5 million each from Pitt and Syracuse.
“The University of Notre Dame has informed us that it is joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports other than football. Notre Dame has been a valued member of the Big East Conference and we wish them success in the future,” Big East commissioner Mike Aresco. “However, Notre Dame’s departure does not change our plans. We have prestigious institutions that are excited to be a part of the Big East. We remain committed to making the Big East stronger than it has ever been.”
The ACC scheduled a news conference for Wednesday afternoon in Chapel Hill, N.C.
It’s also unclear whether the addition of Notre Dame would affect the ACC’s 15-year TV deal with ESPN worth $3.6 billion, which was announced in May after the league said Pittsburgh and Syracuse would leave the Big East to join the conference.
Notre Dame said in a news release that the move doesn’t affect its broadcast partnership with NBC, with Swarbrick calling the move “essentially revenue neutral.”
Notre Dame has played basketball in the Big East since the mid-1990s. Now, in the ACC, the Irish will face traditional powers like Duke and North Carolina — and rekindle its rivalries with Syracuse and Pittsburgh — while the league also fits other sports Notre Dame is competitive in, including lacrosse and soccer.
The ACC in turn cements a relationship with one of the nation’s most storied football programs, adding to a group that already includes Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech and Clemson. That would also seem to position the ACC as the easy choice if Notre Dame ever decides to give up its football independence.
“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,” said Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins. “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.”
Notre Dame considered giving up its football independence in 1999 to join the Big Ten, but alumni were staunchly opposed and the deal never got done. Throughout the dizzying conference realignment of the past few years, Notre Dame officials have been adamant about maintaining football independence.
The ACC decided to accommodate Notre Dame’s desires.
AP sports writers Hank Kurz in Richmond, Va., and Ralph D. Russo in New York, and Associated Press Writer Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., contributed to this report.
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