Notre Dame joining the ACC is a win for everyone

Atlantic Coast Conference headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., is not exactly party central. But you can bet they were pouring a few cocktails and dancing on the desks Wednesday. Why, John Swofford, the buttoned-down commissioner with the nerve of a cat burglar, might have even loosened his tie for this one.

Notre Dame joining the ACC in all sports but football was a monster get for Swofford. And it's the best thing that's happened to the conference since Lefty Driesell stopped wearing those ugly plaid sports jackets.

Say what you will about the Irish, but their brand is still huge. And now the ACC gets to bask in the reflected glow of one of the most storied universities and legendary athletic programs in all the land.

Let's not hear any wailing about Notre Dame not wanting to be a full-fledged member in football, either.

Hey, I don't blame the Irish for remaining independent in football. How can you? They have their own national TV network, also known as NBC Sports. And NBC pays a reported $15 million a year for the right to broadcast their games in a deal that extends to 2015.

Besides, the Irish have agreed to play five football games a year against ACC teams. That means Maryland will play Notre Dame every two-and-a-half years or so. And the Terps will host the Irish once every five years.

Think Byrd Stadium in College Park won't be packed when the Irish play there? Are you kidding? The swells will be lining up to rent those now-empty skyboxes as soon as the first game is scheduled.

Sure, Notre Dame football may not be the colossus it once was. The Irish haven't won a national title since 1988, when Lou Holtz was the coach, although it feels more like 1958. And there were recent seasons when they were almost unwatchable, a situation coach Brian Kelly was brought in to rectify.

But Notre Dame football still has monster cachet. TV execs still love it. Advertisers would kill for it. The alumni are fiercely loyal. And with that sweet NBC deal, every game against Notre Dame is national TV game for schools like Maryland.

Here's another thing to note: Notre Dame fans travel well. And they come from everywhere, not just South Bend, Ind.

Not only that, but they tend to be well-heeled, too. If you've ever been to a game in South Bend, you know the Range Rover, Lexus and BMW count is off the charts. So are the number of white-tablecloth tailgate spreads in the parking lots.

It's a toss-up as to what's more intoxicating: the smell of filet mignon simmering on hundreds of grills or the scent of old money that wafts everywhere.

Yes, when Notre Dame fans show up in your town, they're not shy about spreading cash around.

Notre Dame joining the ACC will be great for men's and women's basketball, too. The Irish aren't exactly a national power, but they made it into the NCAA Tournament five times in the last six seasons. And with Notre Dame joining Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the league in 2013, the ACC just got way stronger than it's been in recent seasons.

As for the Irish women's basketball team, well, they are a national power. They finished as runners-up for the national championship the past two years, going 35-4 last season and losing to undefeated Baylor in the title game in April in Denver.

Along with Maryland, Duke, Miami and Georgia Tech, Notre Dame makes the ACC by far the most competitive conference in women's basketball in the country.

Other sports — lacrosse, soccer, baseball — will benefit from Notre Dame's presence in the ACC, too. But what an insane time this is in college sports, with schools packing up and leaving to join new conferences every five minutes.

Generations-long rivalries, natural geographic boundaries, proximity to other schools in your conference — none of it seems to matter anymore.

Think the idea of Boise State and San Diego State playing football in the Big East is nuts? How about Memphis, Houston, Central Florida and SMU joining the conference for all sports?

Who can keep up with all these moves? And will a new gridiron rivalry for the ages come out of, say, Temple playing SMU? Will Seton Hall vs. Houston in men's hoops be the Big East's version of the annual heavyweight brawl between Duke and Carolina?

I'll believe that when I see it.

In the meantime, both Notre Dame and the ACC made out like a bandit with this deal.

The Irish get to keep their traditional football rivalries — Navy, USC, Stanford — and compete in a prestigious, financially-sound league in other sports. And the ACC gets one of the marquee schools in all of college sports.

John Swofford should pour himself another one. He deserves it.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."



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