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Irish Insights


ACC's impact on Notre Dame's schedule

Notre Dame's agreement to play five Atlantic Coast Conference games each year as part of the Irish being a member in the conference in all sports except football and basketball presented challenges to go along with the benefits of the deal.

One of the benefits for the Irish is that they become part of the ACC's bowl lineup, so they will be able to more easily find a postseason game to play in if Notre Dame doesn't qualify for the College Football Playoff but is bowl eligible.

And another benefit that became evident when Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick talked about the three future football schedules unveiled Friday is that the ACC is an accommodating partner.

The ACC helped the Irish complete their 2014 schedule by allowing Notre Dame to only play four opponents from the conference next season and putting six on the schedule for 2016.

"In order to keep Northwestern on the schedule, in '14 was to play four ACC, six in '15 and five in '16, rather than 5-5-5," Swarbrick said. "In order to do that Wake Forest moved from '14 to '15 and we used Boston College as a Shamrock Series game.

"A lot of people helped us in this process. You learn a lot about your colleagues in this process. Nobody helped us more than (Wake Forest athletic director) Ron Wellman who dug in and became somebody who said, 'Let me try to help you figure this out,' had to do a whole lot of things on his end to make this happen, but reflective of how our ACC colleagues generally approached this. So with that we were able to achieve the necessary balance."

The ACC agreement is also a two-way street, as Swarbrick indicated Notre Dame would look into being part of the conference's non-Saturday games.

"Certainly open to playing in the Labor Day opener if we can find the right game, moving one of our ACC opponents to the opening game. In the two years coming up, we have Texas already in that slot, so we couldn't do it then. Where we can have an opening, we're open to it.

We understand when we're on the road we may be asked to play on Thursday. With the ACC, we won't host those games. Occasionally, but not regularly, we'll have a Thursday night."

Part of the downside to having to fill five slots each season, starting in 2016, with ACC foes, is the loss of some traditional rivalry games for Notre Dame.

Swarbrick put a priority on keeping USC, Stanford and Navy on the Irish's schedule every year and said those three programs are penciled in through 2022. He also said the ACC portion of the schedule has been sketched out through 2022.

But the ACC has cost the Irish games every season against Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and some other rivals who appeared regularly, if not every season, on their schedule.

Because of the need to rearrange things, Notre Dame has no Big Ten opponent on its 2015 schedule, the first time that has happened since 1914. That is if you count Nebraska, which has recently joined the Big Ten, as a member of the conference when it played the Irish in 1915.

"Each of those relationships, each of those contracts was unique," Swarbrick said. "You were dealing with elements of the contract frankly. So we got a lot of attention in the Michigan situation about Michigan being the first school we addressed in it.

"We had a sequence for how we were going to address the schools based on the contracts, not based on our view of school A versus school B. The Michigan contract, at Michigan's request, had a provision that allowed you to stop the contract from rolling over. Once we made the ACC commitment, we knew we had to stop the rollover while we figured out what we were doing. That was a pretty easy decision, the first one to make. For what it's worth, we did not communicate by handing the AD a letter on the sideline. A letter on the sideline came after a phone call that said, I'm going to give you a letter to commemorate this conversation. But be that as it may, that was easy.

"Arizona State was the next one we had to take on. The sequence of these were dictated by the way the contracts were. As you're resolving them, working with your colleagues, you're dealing with liquidated damages in contracts, how long the term was. So beyond our interest in playing Big Ten schools, including Michigan in the future, I hope we can find dates when we can play them, dealing with the reality of the contracts. It dictates in part where you wind up."