Should the ACC Have Required Notre Dame Football to Join?

David Visser

By now, you know the deal: the ACC has revised its approach to the 2020 fall football season, as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, opting for a conference-only schedule plus one in-state, non-conference game. Added to the conference -- for this year, anyway -- is Notre Dame. 

Of course, the Irish are a full member in every other sport except football, by their own choice. The ACC would love to have ND join fully, but the Irish have been content to retain their lucrative TV deal with NBC, as well as the scheduling autonomy that comes along with this independent status in football. 

But now that they've lost Big Ten and Pac-12 games after those conferences went to conference-only schedules, the Irish are 2020 ACC members, getting the same number of conference games (10) as every other conference team, as well as eligibility for the conference title-- even though they're not technically football members. And the conference was more than accommodating to Notre Dame, handing it the ACC's second-weakest schedule, while penalizing Florida State, which carried the conference for so long, with the toughest slate. 

The outcry from FSU and ACC fans was substantial and understandable. Many thought the conference should have used this opportunity to force ND's hand, to make it join up as a full member-- or else. Its membership on the gridiron would serve as a financial boon to conference. And yes, had the Irish already been ACC football members, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. 

But would this really have been the right means to achieving that end? I'm not so sure. Leveraging a national pandemic to get what you want? Seems like it could have been seen as a rather manipulative move in a time of national crisis, and one that could have introduced the Irish into the ACC on a rather sour note. The conference was gracious in how it handled the situation-- let's see if Notre Dame reciprocates in the future. 

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