So much for Notre Dame being irrelevant, which is the constant trope Fighting Irish fans often hear from fans of the Power 5 conferences. If a report from WolverineDigest is correct, Notre Dame threw around its considerable weight, and the result was the fall 2020 college football season going on as planned for the ACC, SEC and Big 12.
If you remember back to the week leading up to the Big Ten's August 11th decision to cancel the 2020 fall football season, there were plenty of rumblings about the work being done by that league to get the rest of the Power 5 conferences to go along with them.
At the time there was a great deal of pessimism about the season taking place, and then things began to change. After the Big Ten announced its decision, the ACC and Notre Dame decided to continue moving forward and were joined by the SEC. Those decisions seemed to give the Big 12, which according to the WolverineDigest article was led by Texas, the push they needed to remain on course as well.
Since then, the Big Ten leadership has faced a great deal of publish backlash from Big Ten players, coaches and parents.
"I don't want to call it arrogance but there was a surprising lack of awareness from the presidents that there would be such significant pushback when they voted to postpone the 2020 season," a source in Big Ten HQ told WolverineDigest. "I think you also have [Commissioner] Kevin Warren who is so eager to please his bosses still early in his tenure that he just sort of went along with them, without really being an advocate for the athletic directors and the football programs.
"It was like he didn't know where his loyalties lie - is it with the presidents or is it with the ADs, coaches and players? In theory, all of those entities should be pulling in the same direction but there was, as we've all seen, incredible disconnect between the philosophies of the presidents and that of their coaches and athletes and, in some cases, athletic directors."
The WolverineDigest staff wrote that sources informed them that the Big Ten was under the impression that the ACC would follow them out. Some of the "academic oriented" Big Ten schools - like Michigan - felt the similarly like-minded schools in the ACC, which now included Notre Dame, would follow them out the door.
That did not happen, and according to the source of the WolverineDigest, it was actually Notre Dame that swung the biggest stick that ultimately led to the ACC deciding to press forward, and that was all the SEC and Big 12 needed to follow the ACC/Notre Dame and not the Big Ten.
"Notre Dame really wanted to play and was willing to enter into an agreement that could lead to something down the road ... at the very least, more games every year against ACC teams," said a source of the WolverineDigest. "They're adamance about playing was the ace-in-the-hole a group, led by Clemson, needed to really push for a season and turn the tide in favor of ignoring the Big Ten.
"I mean, if Notre Dame, with their academic reputation and their national brand, was willing to go forward ... it sort of just sealed the ACC's fate."
According to former NFL punter and current analyst Pat McAfee, Notre Dame's commitment to the ACC would extend beyond the 2020 season.
McAfee's specific argument doesn't make a lot of sense from a timeline standpoint. He claims that Notre Dame threw their weight around by joining the ACC, but that already happened on July 29th, almost two weeks before the Big Ten's decision.
If he's wrong on the timeline but right about Notre Dame enticing the ACC it would mean the leadership in South Bend made some promises about the relationship between Notre Dame and the ACC beyond the 2020 season.
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