The ACC deal for Notre Dame has had plenty of push back from fans. While Notre Dame was able to maintain independence, they had to play five games a year against the ACC. For all the thoughts and opinions surrounding the ACC move from the football side, it only has one real negative impact. The lack of direct financial gain.
A move to a conference typically leads to better recruiting. Texas A&M saw a bump in their recruiting when they made the move from the Big 12 to the SEC. However, that isn't the case with Notre Dame. To show the recruiting impact, I looked at recruits that committed to Notre Dame from states with an ACC school, overall class rank, and average rating per player in the class.
- Average number of players from ACC state - 8
- Average overall class rank - 11.5
- Average player rating in class - .904
- Average number of players from ACC State - 7.4
- Average overall class rank - 13.14
- Average player rating in class - .899
The 2013 class skews the numbers a little bit in favor of the pre-ACC move. It was a top-five class and the highest-rated class under Brian Kelly. However, it shows how Notre Dame is both pulling almost the exact same talent out of ACC states and they haven't increased their recruiting rankings. States like Florida and Virginia have remained a pipeline for Notre Dame but it hasn't resulted in more players there either.
Scheduling The ACC
This is where fans will point out a glaring issue with the ACC deal. Everyone is quick to mention teams like Wake Forest and NC State don't move the needle and just drag the Notre Dame strength of schedule down. But that isn't true.
From 2010-2013, Notre Dame averaged nine wins a season and had an average strength of schedule of 15 out of 122 teams. After making the switch to the ACC from 2014-2020, Notre Dame averaged nine wins and had an average strength of schedule of 16 out of 129 teams.
Just like recruiting, there was almost zero change between pre and post-ACC scheduling. Notre Dame has been able to maintain most of its rivalries and schedule a blue blood in recent years such as Texas, Georgia, or Wisconsin. Notre Dame just swapped the Big Ten with the ACC and instead of Purdue, they play North Carolina. They also have rivals in Pitt and Boston College that usually already find themselves on the schedule anyway.
So the only real downfall of all of this is financial.
Lack Of Funds
The ACC falls behind when it comes to TV deals and payouts per school. Notre Dame is only a partial member so they only get part of the money. In 2019, Notre Dame was paid $7.9 million from the ACC deal. Full ACC members were paid $29.5 million each.
For comparison, the Big Ten paid out 54 million per school, the SEC paid 43.1 million per team and the Big 12 paid 33.6 million. These are just the payouts for TV deals and the ACC is closer to the Pac 12 than the Big Ten/SEC.
Notre Dame gets paid $15 million annually from NBC and the $7.9 million from the ACC puts them around $23 million. If you add in the $9.0 million a year from the Under Armour deal, that still puts Notre Dame behind the Big 12 in just TV revenue.
Now Notre Dame football isn't hurting financially, far from it actually. Notre Dame is a private institution and they don't report their financial numbers, but Forbes estimates Notre Dame made $112 million in revenue in 2018. That puts them in the top 10 earners in college football.
This is just another point to show from the football side the ACC deal has done very little for Notre Dame. It hasn't hurt them as so many believe, it has stayed the same.
Making The Leap
There has been increasing pressure for Notre Dame to join a conference. The fan base wants independence and to maintain the tradition. The college football world wants Notre Dame to join the rest or get left out.
The Fighting Irish are at a crossroads. The recruiting hasn't improved, the strength of schedule hasn't changed and the financial gain is a drop in the bucket. Notre Dame has to play in a bottom feeder of a Power 5 conference without any benefits. Unless they go undefeated, Notre Dame will likely get left out of the playoff. They also don't get bowl game benefits and that came up last season.
Notre Dame as a full ACC member would have played in the Orange Bowl. Instead, four loss Virginia got the nod and Notre Dame went to the Camping Bowl.
The ACC is a great move for basketball. But from the football standpoint, it doesn't move the needle and they are stuck in no man's land. As the last power standing as an independent, something will have to give. Either tradition falls and Notre Dame joins a conference, or they need to break away back to independent. Otherwise, they will start to fall behind as TV deals grow for conferences and need to go undefeated just to make a playoff.
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