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ACC Plus Independents Gives Notre Dame Options For Football In 2020

Notre Dame should have plenty of options to put together a full schedule in 2020

The Big Ten conference has announced a plan to go to a conference-only schedule for 2020, and you can be certain the rest of the Power 5 conferences will follow suit. That’s just how it works, and that puts Notre Dame in an intriguing situation.

Notre Dame will not, however, be without options for the 2020 season. According to Stadium’s Brett McMurphy, ACC commissioner John Swofford intends for his conference to help Notre Dame fill out its 2020 schedule.

Now, whether or not those games would count toward the conference win-loss record remains to be seen, but Swofford’s comments certainly should put Notre Dame a bit at ease. As I see it, there are two options for the Irish.


Notre Dame is already a member of the ACC for every major sport except football and hockey, and that relationship should benefit the Irish in 2020. There could be a scenario in which the ACC brings Notre Dame into the conference as a full-time member for this season.

Notre Dame in the ACC would give the league 15 teams, so the league schedules would need to be overhauled a bit. But an odd number of teams doesn’t make putting together a full schedule impossible, it just requires some work.

Two questions would remain about this adoption. The first is, would Notre Dame be eligible for the conference title game, should the leagues still play them this season? The second is, would the games against Notre Dame count against each team’s win-loss record? I don’t have a guess on the first one, but the odds are strong those games would count as conference games since that is all teams will have this season.

Of course, joining the conference for 2020 could possibly open up the door for Notre Dame to slide into a more full-time role in the conference moving forward. It would at least give the ACC a bit more leverage when it comes to trying to convince the Irish to become a more full-time partner. It would be a similar argument to what has allowed Notre Dame and Navy to remain rivals for decades.


The other option is for Notre Dame to adopt an ACC plus independents schedule. Swofford said the league would work with Notre Dame “as needed,” which means there could be some leeway for the Irish to not join the league full-time for this one season.

To begin putting that schedule together, Notre Dame could keep the six current ACC games. That would mean Notre Dame would have contests against Clemson, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Duke and Georgia Tech.

Notre Dame could then finally give BYU its promised return trip to Provo. Notre Dame could also choose to add the other independent programs to the schedule. That would mean the Irish add Liberty, Army, UMass, New Mexico State and UConn.

That is 12 games. It wouldn’t be an overly sexy schedule, but it would allow Notre Dame to complete a full slate. If the season needs to be shortened you could then start removing the independent schools while maintaining the six ACC games. If the ACC would like to drop a couple of Notre Dame vs. ACC games, the Irish could keep those independent programs.

If Swofford sticks to his comments to McMurphy and works with Notre Dame, which seems likely, the Irish would not have much of a challenge when it comes to putting together a 12-game schedule.

Of course, if the ACC decides not to assist the Irish, Notre Dame would be in a much tougher situation and could be stuck with a 6-game schedule.

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