As college athletic programs fall over each other trying to form the biggest and baddest conference in the country, the University of Notre Dame should make the most aggressive and unlikely move yet, writes a Yahoo Sports columnist.
The Fighting Irish, a partial member of the decaying Big East Conference, should follow the lead of its league brethren Syracuse and Pittsburgh and join the Atlantic Coast Conference, Dan Wetzel writes.
"If I'm Notre Dame today, I'm on the phone to the Atlantic Coast Conference headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., because tomorrow may be too late," he writes.
The ACC made the first step in a power play this weekend by adding Syracuse and Pitt, and Connecticut and Rutgers are rumored to be the next members of what would become a 16-team conference. The ACC is making a pitch to build the conference in men's basketball, media market demographics and academics at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
The addition of Notre Dame, a national powerhouse in fundraising and fan interest (if not football), would give the ACC another selling point in becoming a national, not just a regional, player.
The arguments against Notre Dame giving up its football independence still exist, Wetzel acknowledges. The Irish would have to figure out how to restructure their TV deal with NBC and they would not longer be able to schedule seven or eight home games per season. It's doubtful they would still be able to play traditional rivals like Southern Cal, Michigan and the service academies every year.
"There is little question that the Big Ten can provide more money right now, but money isn't the major concern for Notre Dame," Wetzel writes. "The school has money. With all those alums and a $6.1 billion endowment, it has as much money as it possibly needs. It's not a lack of revenue that has held the program back."
If the ACC and Notre Dame take Wetzel's advice, that could spell bad news for Connecticut. UConn appears to desperately want to abandon the Big East, but given the choice between Notre Dame and Rutgers, which gets at least token notice from the New York media, and UConn — which doesn't get much attention from New York or Boston until its basketball teams make the NCAA Tournament — it's fairly obvious which one the ACC would take. (It's not the Huskies.)
Of course, that assumes the ACC would be done expanding at 16 teams. Why not 18, adding UConn, Rutgers, Notre Dame and West Virginia? Or 24, bringing in Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Boise State, Nevada and TCU as well? We've already seen geography has no bearing in constructing the strongest conference possible.
Go for it, Notre Dame. Be the latest domino to fall in this descent into madness. Let's go crazy.