Throughout the latest conference realignment spasms, ACC officials have made clear that any prospective member must be “all-in.” Football, basketball, lacrosse if ya got it. And don’t forget your television revenue. In the ACC’s sandbox, schools share all.
But what if compromising that equity stance allowed the conference to land Notre Dame for all sports, football included? Is the Irish’s appeal that broad? Is Notre Dame football still a ratings and financial bonanza?
If the answers are yes, here’s how the ACC could lure the Irish: admit Navy for football only.
Now reporters occasionally float ideas whispered to them by sources. This is not such an idea. This is me thinking aloud at the keyboard, often (always?) a dangerous proposition.
Translation: This has about as much chance of transpiring as Obama does of winning Oklahoma next year.
Moreover, the notion may be obsolete. Navy might already have decided to join the Big East for football.
But if the Midshipmen and ACC are open to discussion, they could find common ground.
The biggest obstacle to Notre Dame relinquishing its football independence is scheduling. The Irish desire an annual game in California, which means playing Stanford and USC each year; Notre Dame is contracted with Michigan through 2031 and has played Navy each season since 1927.
And there’s the opening. If Navy-Notre Dame were an ACC game, the Irish would have greater non-conference flexibility.
Sure, a nine-game ACC schedule, plus Stanford, USC and Michigan, would be daunting. But Notre Dame always has scheduled ambitiously.
With its tradition, location (Annapolis, Md.) and academic acclaim, Navy would be an ideal candidate for full ACC membership but for one enormous issue: basketball.
The Midshipmen compete in the Patriot League, where they have trouble enough. Navy has enjoyed two winning seasons in the last 10 years, during which their average Rating Percentage Index ranking is 266.
No offense to the Mids, but in the ACC they’d be 1-17 waiting to happen, a drag on everyone’s RPI. There just aren’t enough David Robinsons to make Navy a viable ACC basketball program.
Which is why football-only membership strikes me as plausible. If the academy is considering Big East football, why not the ACC? Virginia, Maryland and Virginia Tech would make far more natural rivals for Navy than Louisville, Rutgers and Boise State. Plus, the ACC figures to generate much more TV revenue from football than the gerrymandered Big East.
Yes, changing the rules for one school risks infighting. But this wouldn’t be Texas and its Longhorn Network threatening the Big 12. This would be Navy. Surely the Midshipmen can play well with others.
And yes, having 15 teams for sports other than football – the 12-member ACC will add Syracuse and Pittsburgh as soon as those schools extricate themselves from the Big East -- would be complicated. But not paralyzingly so.
Heck, the basketball tournament would be easy: Play three games Wednesday among the bottom six with the winners advancing into a 12-team bracket that mirrors the ACC’s present set-up.
If I can figure out the tournament, surely the powers-that-be in Greensboro could solve the regular season.
The question for ACC suits becomes: How valuable is Notre Dame football, and how badly do they want it?
If the conference really wants the Irish, thinking outside the bun will be a must. And even that may not budge Notre Dame.
There you have it. A crazy idea for a Friday afternoon -- one perfect for the blogosphere, and one offered before happy hour, so no cracks about my sobriety, or lack thereof.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP