PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 24: Jonas Gray #25 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes for a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game on September 24, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Notre Dame joining the ACC benefits the conference, and it benefits Pitt as well.
After months of rumors, speculation, and chatter, the Atlantic Coast Conference and Notre Dame made it official Wednesday. The Fighting Irish will join the ACC in all sports, except football and hockey. The news sent shockwaves around the college landscape and is another nail in the Big East's coffin.
The move also showcases the foresight of both Pitt and Syracuse and their decisions, last season, to leave the Big East. Whenever Notre Dame joins, they will play five ACC football games per year, on a rotating basis. Pitt has a longstanding agreement with the Irish. The teams agreed on a contract to play through 2017, but that is now in jeopardy. Pitt and Notre Dame have more history between the two schools than any other ACC teams can claim. While Pitt may not be able to play Notre Dame annually once they join the ACC, though, the move allows Pitt some scheduling flexibility in the future. But first, lets talk about the present and how the moves strengthens Pitt and the ACC.
Pitt fled to the ACC to gain stability. The Big East was, and still is, a mess. Pitt and Syracuse saw the writing on the wall and made the move. It was a smart move then, and now it looks even better. Rumors flared up over the spring concerning Florida State and Clemson leaving the ACC for the Big 12. Now, with a $50 million exit fee, that will be nearly impossible. Also, the league's television deal with ESPN will most likely be reviewed and renegotiated. Schools are going to receive more money because of Notre Dame's decision. Isn't that what college football is all about nowadays?
With Notre Dame, the ACC doesn't have to add another school. It can be perfectly content to have a 14-team football conference and a 15-team basketball conference. The basketball conference is now, without a doubt, the strongest in the nation. The league doesn't have to go out and add two schools that could water down the product. Schools like Louisville, Rutgers, and Connecticut were once viable options for teams 15 and 16, but those ships have effectively sailed.
Now with a stronger conference, Pitt will benefit. The Panthers already gained in money and in reputation when they joined the ACC. Now, they'll benefit even more. With the addition of Notre Dame, the ACC should be able to lure even more attractive bowl tie-ins, much better than those of the Big East.
There are also some indirect benefits Pitt will receive because of this deal. First, Notre Dame being scheduled once every three years allows Pitt to have West Virginia, Penn State, and Notre Dame on the schedule on a rotating basis. Its something I've been advocating for ever since Pitt and West Virginia announced their intentions to leave the Big East. No matter how much animosity there may be between some fans, those rivalry games are something fans circle on the calendar. Playing WVU one year, Penn State the next, and Notre Dame the third year would make too much sense for it not to happen.
Whether or not you consider Notre Dame a football power, its agreement with the ACC adds another prestigious football program to the conference, which is certainly lacking in that department. Even though it's a partial deal, it shows that the ACC is serious about strengthening its brand and creating its own destiny. All threats of another raid have been put to bed. Schools will get bigger paydays. The conference is more attractive in the college landscape. And most importantly, it is safe from expansion raids. The ACC has turned out to be a perfect fit. Wasn't that the goal of Pitt's administration all along?