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Associated Press
Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford announces Notre Dame's plans to move to the ACC from the Big East during a news conference at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Wednesday.

Irish keep identity

Notre Dame will shift its conference allegiance while maintaining its football independence.

The Irish will join the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports except football and hockey, the university and the conference announced Wednesday.

"We didn't feel we could give (football independence) up without losing our identity in some way," Notre Dame president Rev John Jenkins said at a news conference in Chapel Hill, N.C."We are just deeply grateful to the ACC, who have been such great partners in recognizing that.

"I just want to say emphatically and clearly, that aside, we are all in in the ACC. We are committed to this conference for athletic purposes, but even more deeply for the affinity of institutions and affinity of values that exist."

There is no immediate timetable for Notre Dame's move from the Big East to the ACC.

"We have monitored the changing conference landscape for many months and have concluded that moving to the ACC is the best course of action for us," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. "This will enable us to maintain our historic independence in football, join in the ACC's non-BCS bowl package, and provide a new and extremely competitive home for our other sports."

"We are immensely grateful to the members of the Big East, which has been a wonderful home for us the past 17 years."

The Irish will need to pay a $5 million exit fee and give 27-month notice before leaving the Big East, according to an email from John Paquette, the Big East's associated commissioner. That means Notre Dame could not leave for the ACC until the 2015-16 season.

Notre Dame could arrange to exit the Big East earlier, as Syracuse and Pittsburgh both did this year. Syracuse and Pitt agreed to $7.5 million buyouts with the Big East in July and are scheduled to join the ACC on July 1, 2013.

"We will meet our obligations with the Big East and have discussions whether there is an opportunity to accelerate that," Swarbrick said at the news conference.

North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke, Florida State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami, Clemson, Maryland, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Boston College are the current members of the ACC.

"The University of Notre Dame is extraordinarily proud to join this great athletic conference composed of such outstanding institutions of higher education," Jenkins said. "Our partnership with the superb institutions of the ACC will enhance greatly the University of Notre Dame as a whole, and Notre Dame is fully committed to enhancing the ACC and its member institutions."

When Notre Dame ends its membership with the Big East, which it joined in all sports but football and hockey in 1995, the Irish will agree to play five football games against ACC opponents each season. Notre Dame will play each ACC opponent once every three years.

The arrangement should allow the Irish to keep its traditional rivalries with USC, Navy and Stanford in place, but it could force Notre Dame to rotate its traditional Big Ten opponents –Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State – each season.

Notre Dame's decision to join the ACC does not change the university's agreement with NBC.

"We'll be able to be in 10 of the 11 largest cities in America with our football program to help promote our university," Swarbrick said. "The competitive result is also great. I met this morning with our coaches and informed them for first time, and their reaction was very positive.

"What they were especially excited about was the competitive implications for them. Unquestionably, this is best athletic conference in the country, and we will only make it better."

The decision to allow Notre Dame to join the ACC as a partial member goes against the conference's previous stance that members had to be committed to all sports.

ACC commissioner John Swofford said the decision to allow Notre Dame to join in all sports but football and hockey wasn't difficult, but it was a significant decision.

"We are in our 60th year as a conference, and we have always been an all-in, if you will, membership," Swofford said. "In the more recent years, we've discussed this. With a changing landscape out there in inter-collegiate athletics and a changing world … What was best 20 years ago isn't necessarily the best in today's world."

Joining the ACC will give Notre Dame access to the ACC's postseason bowl agreements, helping the Irish secure bowl spots when the college football's new playoff system is installed.

Notre Dame could be an opponent for an ACC team in the Orange Bowl, according to Swofford. And Notre Dame will be part of the ACC's non-BCS bowl agreements.

"Below the BCS, Notre Dame will be a part of the ACC bowl lineup," Swofford said. "And in that sense (Notre Dame) will basically become an ACC team in our bowl structure and bowl lineup.

"There will be a provision in which for Notre Dame to be selected over an ACC team, that Notre Dame would have to be ranked higher, equal to or in the win column be within one win of any ACC teams that are also eligible to be picked."

The ACC also put rules in place to help secure its long-term security. The conference's Council of Presidents voted to increase the ACC's exit fee to "three times the annual operating budget." The league said the operating budget is currently more than $50 million.

When Notre Dame joins the ACC, it will only share revenue from the 20 percent the ACC generates from its non-football sports. The Irish would get a 1/15th share of that money.

Notre Dame will keep all revenue from its football and hockey contracts, while the ACC will split the 80 percent of revenue generated by its football deals.

"This wasn't a financial decision," Swarbrick said. "It's financially neutral for us and we don't foresee that changing anytime in the future."

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