If football is the only driver of the conference realignment bus, then somebody should tell the ACC. They've added Syracuse and Pittsburgh, neither of which have football programs that have done much recently, and now they are set to add Notre Dame, in every sport but Football -- they announced this morning in a press release.
The Irish's move was not a surprise to Villanova administration, according to a source.
"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."
Notre Dame will join the conference in all sports except for football, where they will officially remain an independent. The deal, however, will require them to schedule five ACC football programs each season, adding some football value as well.
"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," Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. "We are able 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."
Notre Dame sponsors 23 varsity-level athletics programs. Their hockey program will also be outside the ACC, a sport that is not offered by that conference, so that program will continue with a planned move to the Hockey East conference.
They are the fourth Big East member school to leave the conference and the third to go to the ACC. This move comes conspicuously near the beginning of the Big East's negotiating window with ESPN, which opened on September 1st and will be an exclusive negotiation for 60 days.
Notre Dame will not receive a full share of ACC revenue unless they join in football as well in the future, but will still have their separate football television contract. The ACC will likely renegotiate their television revenue with ESPN, but the Irish are expected to receive a full share (1/15th) of the portion of the contract that is not attributed to football (approximately 20%).
The ACC will now have 14 member institutions in football and 15 members in basketball. That league has likely strengthened their basketball league greatly with the latest spate of moves. Notre Dame will only be required to pay a $5 million exit fee to depart the Big East (football members would have to pay $10 million). Notre Dame technically has to give the Big East 27-months notice of the move, but recent dealings with Pittsburgh and Syracuse indicate that they may be able to negotiate a sooner exit if they pay more than the required amount.
"The University of the Notre Dame has informed us that it is joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports other than football," Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. "Notre Dame has been a valued member of the BIG EAST Conference and we wish them success in the future.
"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 move does raise the question of whether the ACC will remain at 15 members for basketball -- which is possible by scheduling bye weeks during the conference season -- or if they will add an additional member in that sport for balance. Any plans to add a 16th basketball member have been denied thus-far, but there is still some room for doubt.
According to the Charlotte Observer, the ACC will now maintain two home-and-home "designated rivals" on their schedule.
Regardless of the ACC's plans, there is sure to be some campaigning on the part of current Big East members to join Notre Dame in the coming days.
The ACC also announced that their Presidents have voted to increase conference exit fees to three times the annual operating budget. That would make the current exit fee set at around $50 million.