Irish-ACC Alliance Makes Perfect Sense in This Covid-19 Storm

Notre Dame football players gather for Black Lives Matter rally.

Herb Gould

 Yes, the news that Notre Dame, which has staunchly maintained its independence, has agreed to play football as a member of the ACC this fall is momentous.

But it will be a bigger deal if college football games actually are played this fall.

It’s good that college football officials continue to plan for scenarios in which the season can happen despite the perils of Coronavirus. That’s what they should do. The sport is so important on so many levels.

That said, the way this pandemic is going, the college football season is ``hanging by a thread,’’ as one Big Ten official told the Chicago Tribune. 

Even without fans, a college football game is a gathering of hundreds of people. And.most college football games are played at state universities.

Despite the pressure to play, governors, not college football people, are likely to make the final call. And that call is not looking promising in many states, including key college-football-loving states that are among the states hardest hit by the pandemic.

And if they are out, how does college football go on?

That said, let’s assume the unlikely. . . that there is a college football season.

What are the implications of ND becoming an ACC member this season?

First, it was a smart and practical move. The Irish easily could have cobbled together an independent schedule. But it undoubtedly would have been overloaded with lesser opponents who would have made ND’s path to the national championship a very tricky deal.

If Power Five schools cut out nonconference games, building a national championship resume becomes an almost impossible task for the Irish.

And playing for the national championship, everyone knows, is what Notre Dame is all about.

And so, while the headlines say, ``Notre Dame joins a conference,’’ the bottom line is: Notre Dame did what it had to do in the best interest of its national-championship goal.

It’s a one-year deal in an unprecedented time.

That also applies to the financial arrangement, in which the Irish will pool television revenue with ACC.

That also applies to moving the Navy game to South Bend to keep that historic series intact. (The ACC has mandated that nonconference games be played in states that have ACC members.) The Midshipmen can be compensated in future seasons for giving up their 2020 home game.

With marquee games against Wisconsin, USC and Stanford already shelved because the Big Ten and Pac-12 aren’t playing nonconference games, what choice did Notre Dame have? Even the Arkansas tuneup has been lost in the SEC’s conference-games-only mandate.

The road to the national championship does not go through the MAC and the American Athletic Conference.

ND already been scheduled to play six ACC opponents, including Clemson. Adding four more to provide shelter in this Covid-19 storm made perfect sense. Would the ACC have cut out those meetings with a still-independent Notre Dame? We'll never know.

Because the ACC has scrapped its division setup for this fall, the top two teams will meet in the conference championship game if things proceed that far. That means Notre Dame might face Clemson twice if both play to expectations.

That's a tough deal. But not as tough a deal as trying to make a College Football Playoff schedule without playing serious Power Five opponents.

Here's the real issue that remains, though: Will college football even be played this fall?

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Herb Gould

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