September 12, 2012
by Todd Helmick

Today is a historic day in Atlantic Coast Conference Athletics. The 60-year old conference has accepted Notre Dame as a full-time member in every sport but football. Not only does this move emphasize the drastic changes that have shaped the college football realignment wars over the past three years, more importantly the move demonstrates how desperate one of the nation's worst revenue generating power conferences has become. Commissioner John Swofford and his ACC counterparts have sold their soul straight to Touchdown Jesus. It's a black-eye for a man and a diminishing conference that didn't have the guts to tell a new member they couldn't come here and set their own rules.

Some of those rules will include:

  • The ACC sharing revenue equally with Notre Dame in all sports but football.
  • Notre Dame getting one of the guaranteed ACC bowl "tie-in" slots
  • Notre Dame not sharing any of the bowl revenue earned from the ACC "tie-in" slot
  • Notre Dame playing a full schedule in all sports but only five games in football

The ACC has not been quick about divulging all the early details of this merger including just how much football package money Notre Dame will be rewarded from the ACC, if any, despite not having to share their football money. A package that will likely be similar to the one the Big 12 originally had in place while trying to lure the Irish this past summer.

Many supporters of this move are hanging their hat on four basic concepts.

  1. That ESPN will renegotiate the ACC television contract to include Notre Dame which in turn will attract a higher price.
  2. That Notre Dame will strengthen the ACC's bargaining power when negotiating new bowl deals.
  3. That NBC might not renew its television contract with Notre Dame when it expires in 2015.
  4. That Notre Dame might become a full-time ACC football member sometime down the road.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford has already stated the ESPN contract is currently under renegotiation. Obviously the price tag will increase with the Irish on the table. Just how much will be the whole key. The early unofficial word is that the payout per ACC team could likely increase 1 to 1.5 million dollars.

This writer has never been labeled an accounting genius. Regardless, the numbers don't calculate into what the ACC big wigs have been selling to the masses. Adding two to three home games per year against Notre Dame is not going to bump the pay significantly. Whatever increase generated is still going to leave the ACC ranked fifth in monetary prowess behind the other power conferences. That is unless Notre Dame is magically delicious to the television networks in an amount that exceeds $50 million in new revenues, which is what the ACC would need to catch up to the next conference ranked fourth in the economic pecking order.

Keep in mind that Notre Dame will only be required to play five ACC football opponents every season. They already play four in 2012 (Miami, Wake Forest, Boston College and future member Pitt). Of course this contract appears to be much more aligned than the one the Big East Conference struck with Notre Dame beginning with the 1995-96 seasons. That contract required Notre Dame to play "up to" a certain number of Big East opponents in football each season. As time demonstrated, the phrase "up to" was a hypothetical one as the Irish never really embraced a partial Big East football scheduling plan. Oh those promises sounded so great.

The ACC probably made a descent coup in relation to bowl bargaining status. But that too is based on a carrot dangling in front of the mule without anything written and signed on paper.

In regards to parts 3 and 4 on the ACC wish list, Notre Dame will fight to the death to avoid not being an Independent. It's been this way for over a century and anyone that believes this will change in the next century should consider purchasing some ocean front property in Blacksburg. Times are changing, but they have changed in the past too. There were actually years when bowl games didn't even count towards voting for a national champion and Notre Dame relished their Independence. In the 1930s when the televised football craze first hit America Notre Dame in short raped everyone to get what they still do today without having to share the money. Some aspects will remain constant...taxes, death, roaches and ND will always keep the football money for themselves. And it is clueless to believe NBC will not renew their contract with Notre Dame. This is the same network that spent billions just to have the sole Olympic rights knowing full well they may only break even at best.

The biggest defense of why adding Notre Dame to all sports but football was a good move has to do with that television money issue. The same issue that has put West Virginia in the Big 12, Nebraska in the Big Ten, Colorado in the Pac 12, etc., etc. One aspect the ACC is counting on involved a severe case of overestimating what the value ND football currently is worth. The Big Ten Network alone has surpassed the payout for Notre Dame's sacrosanct contract with NBC. Television revenue at most conferences is rapidly accelerating while at Notre Dame it's staying the same. Although still good, Notre Dame's television ratings have been dwindling for several years. The Sun Bowl ratings two years ago versus Miami didn't even surpass the Liberty Bowl ratings on the same day that pitted Georgia against UCF.

Here is the issue that no one seems to be discussing when it comes to these all mighty television dollars. Recall, Texas talked to the ACC just recently about joining the ACC as a full-time member along with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. One of the dividing points at hand was The Longhorn Network (LHN), a corporate television network set up exclusively to broadcast University of Texas sporting events, which in turn is backed financially by ESPN. The ACC stance was "no special treatment for any member". While the ACC encourages any of its member institutions to start their own network, all revenue earned would have to be shared among all 12 of its members. Not only has Notre Dame been given special treatment and special rules to follow by becoming a member of the ACC, the issue of a similar Notre Dame Network the Irish have been working on for the last few seasons has never been mentioned. Allowing Notre Dame to gain access to the ACC's bowl tie-ins while getting to keep their Tier 3 network earnings would go down as a complete failure on Swofford's watch as he just turned down a significantly better deal with Texas and the Big 12 that was going to earn the ACC more money while giving up less control.

What's really at the heart of the matter? That the league would offer this package to anyone is a slap in the face to every ACC team. C'mon man! The ACC just told a brand new member they can come in and set their own rules. That they can join in every sport except the one that would bring in the most money. That they only have to play so many games. That they can take a conference bowl slot and the money that goes with it. If longtime member Clemson asks for that deal they get laughed at as the door hits them on the way out.

ACC football has become irrelevant. The basketball product is slowly becoming irrelevant too when compared to the glory days of not so long ago outside of obviously Duke and North Carolina. ACC expansion has not worked up to this point. Not even close. This recent degrading move was made to save a sinking ship where FSU and/or Clemson was sure to bail. Hence the new astronomical exit fee of $50 million for any member wishing to leave the ACC. If adding Notre Dame is such a great deal, then why the need to punish harshly those that wish to leave? Maybe the Irish demanded the assurance.

Everything Notre Dame has seemingly offered to the ACC is nothing more than a fake ideology entailing prestige and image hiding the truth that Notre Dame football has become mediocre at best. Maybe the ACC has not won a BCS bowl game in quite some time. The last time Notre Dame won a BCS bowl game? Well...never.

The ACC apparently cares more about Notre Dame than it cares about any other team in this league. And Notre Dame continues to step on others to get what they want with only empty promises of riches that are not on paper as opposed to the ones the Irish just received.

Boy, these same promises really worked out well for the Big East didn't they?


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