Gene Corrigan ran Notre Dame athletics from 1981-87. He ran the ACC from 1987-97. No one pines for an Irish-ACC marriage more than he.
“I think it would be wonderful,” Corrigan said.
But can it happen? Would Notre Dame ever relinquish its football independence and, for the first time, join a league for all sports?
“They’re certainly going to think about it more than they ever have before,” Corrigan said from his home near the University of Virginia, “because things have changed so much. … You pick up the paper every day and you have no idea what you might read (about conferences). … It’s kind of a crazy time, isn’t it? I don’t mean that in any way to be critical of anybody. It just is (a crazy time).”
The latest shifts are seismic and include Pittsburgh and Syracuse bolting the Big East for the ACC, Texas A&M and, in all likelihood, Missouri leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, and West Virginia or Lousiville, and Texas Christian, moving from the Big East to Big 12.
Notre Dame is a non-football Big East member, but the conference’s splintering has the school pondering its athletics future. Irish basketball coach Mike Brey, a Maryland native and former Duke assistant, would welcome ACC competition, and the conference is equally enthused about Notre Dame’s national appeal.
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski endorsed Notre Dame as the ACC’s next member last week during the league’s preseason media gathering, while Brey told the Chicago Tribune that his program needs Eastern roots.
But as detailed here ACC commissioner John Swofford made clear that the ACC wants all-in members only.
A Duke graduate, Corrigan was Swofford’s direct predecessor and orchestrated the expansion that brought Florida State to the league in 1991 and elevated its football. He also served as athletic director at Virginia and Notre Dame.
But even in retirement Corrigan is connected. He wouldn’t reveal details of his conversations but said he speaks with Swofford and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.
Moreover, Corrigan’s son Kevin coaches the Irish’s lacrosse team. Another son, Boo, was an associate athletic director at Notre Dame and is the AD at Army.
So if anyone knows the Irish way, the influence of the school’s governing body and its most well-heeled donors, it’s Corrigan.
“All the (other) sports the ACC is good at, lacrosse and tennis and soccer, Notre Dame is good at,” Corrigan said. “From a competitive standpoint, it couldn’t be better.”
Indeed, the Irish fit the ACC not only athletically but also academically and culturally. Pitt would be the only league school less than 500 miles (372, according to Mapquest) from Notre Dame, but when Boston College joined the ACC, the closest conference rival was Maryland at 433 miles.
Will it happen? Will the ACC and Notre Dame navigate the scheduling and contractual – the Irish’s TV deal with NBC runs through 2015 – minefield that their varying interests create.
Corrigan said he doesn’t know, but this much seems clear: What was once impossible is no longer.
Look for much more on Notre Dame and the ACC in future blog posts and in columns online and in the Daily Press.
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