The ACC Has A Golden Opportunity To Entice Notre Dame
Right now the ACC has an opportunity to take steps to ultimately entice Notre Dame to become a full-time member, but only if they handle the situation correctly.
I’ve seen comments from many members of the media who are advocating for the ACC and other leagues to take a strong stance with Notre Dame in an attempt to bully the Irish into joining a conference. Beyond the pettiness and childishness of this argument, it’s also a poor strategy.
John Swofford didn’t become commissioner of the ACC by making poor and short sighted decisions, and I don’t see him making one right now. Swofford has to know that this is his best chance at getting Notre Dame to become a full-time member in football.
He can choose to take a stick approach, or he can choose to take a carrot approach.
Taking the stick approach, which many seem to advocate for, would be foolish. Not only would Swofford likely not convince Notre Dame to join the league, he could find himself in a situation where the leadership at Notre Dame starts looking for ways to get out of its current contract with the league. That would be very bad news financially for the ACC.
The carrot approach would work much, much better. Just ask Navy.
During World War II, the Naval Academy stepped up and helped Notre Dame to survive as an institution, and Notre Dame has repaid that with over 70 years of loyalty by playing the Midshipmen every single season. For much of the last four decades playing Navy has done absolutely nothing for Notre Dame, but that hasn’t stopped the Irish program from remaining loyal to an institution that stepped up to the plate in their time of need.
Swofford should be on the phone with Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick and say, “Hey, Jack, whatever you need, let us know.” If that means keeping the six games, great. If it means keeping four games while Notre Dame schedules the six independent schools, great.
At the same time, if Swofford was really savvy he would offer Notre Dame the opportunity to join the league as a full-time partner for just one season. That offer should come with no future promises or guarantees. That sign of friendship, partnership and loyalty would not go unnoticed by the leaders at Notre Dame.
Just as important, it would not go unnoticed by Notre Dame fans, who for the most part fully embrace the program's independence. I guarantee you’d see a lot of pro-staying independent fans soften their stance if the ACC stepped up and helped savage the 2020 season.
Allowing Notre Dame in as a full-time partner for one season would give the ACC the opportunity to lay out the red carpet, which would be the wise thing to do. Coaches can talk all they want about how Notre Dame needs to pay their fair share, but that is unwise. Some in the media and non-Notre Dame fans will eat that up, but it makes no business sense.
Coaches are coaches, they should coach and stick to coaching. The fact is the ACC is a basketball conference, and even if Florida State returns to form it will still be a basketball conference. The problem with that is the biggest revenue generator, by far, is football. You don't convince ESPN to throw tens if not millions of more dollars at you by being a basketball conference.
Making small, short-term financial decisions that favor Notre Dame is the best way to lead to a more long-term partnership that would mean a lot more money for everyone. An ACC that has Notre Dame is going to be far, far more attractive to the major networks the next time the ACC is looking for a new deal. It would add a great deal of credibility to the league from a football standpoint.
Swofford knows this, and that is why I fully anticipate him doing everything in his power to have Notre Dame’s back in 2020.
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