Word on the street this week is that the ACC is considering a plan to allow Notre Dame to compete as an “official” member of the conference in football for the 2020 season, thus allowing them to be in the running for the ACC Championship game and potentially earn the ACC’s Orange Bowl bid.

In this model, Notre Dame would do what the rest of the league is doing, and play a 10-game conference schedule. The full schedule would also include one non-conference game, which could be Navy depending on what the AAC decides. There are also rumors the SEC would work out a deal with the ACC to play non-conference games against each other.

Bryan Driskell

That proposal was first reported by Brett McMurphy of Stadium. If approved, it would be a one-year deal for the Irish who have made it clear they are all for being in the ACC—but want to remain independent for football.

With no thanks to ACC Commissioner John Swafford, Notre Dame may once again walk away from the table with the best end of the deal rather than having the ACC stand up and have a little backbone.

Giving the Irish the six games they already agreed upon is one thing….but to give them all the benefits of being a football member without having to put in the same time, effort and money as everyone else in conference is bush league. Not to mention making the path to the playoffs easier for the program that refuses to truly align with a conference.

While forcing Notre Dame’s hand and making them commit to football or nothing at all (that includes taking away those “freebie football games each year”) is not be the best decision ever, you have to use some leverage somehow. Why let Notre Dame call the shots here? Speaking strictly from the football perspective, what exactly is the ACC getting out of the deal? A slightly better national reputation for what will undoubtedly be one of the weirdest seasons in the history of the sport anyways? Ummm……

Irish head football coach Brian Kelly said this week he is confident his team will have a competitive schedule in 2020. Notre Dame was already set to have six games against ACC foes this season, most notably a home tilt on Nov. 7 against Clemson.

Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney and Commissioner John Swofford hold the ACC Trophy with the Tigers victory in the 2019 ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium. (Photo: Jim Dedmon/USA Today Sports)

In a report by 247 Sports, Kelly expressed his confidence that things will get worked out despite the unprecedented times as conferences and programs scramble to find ways to make the season happen.

“Certainly, as an independent, we lose some of those natural rivalries we’ve played for years. Certainly, the USC game, certainly, Stanford, we will not play Wisconsin,” Kelly said. “But we have a collateral agreement with the ACC and so we will lean heavily on that. (Notre Dame athletic director) Jack Swarbrick has certainly been involved in that, in terms of setting up a schedule.

“We feel very confident that at the end of the day, we’re going to have a very competitive schedule using the ACC as a really good partner in this whole scheduling for us moving forward. There are conferences that have come out with not wanting to give up those non-league games, and so those stay on the table for us as well. So, we’ll see how that plays out over the next couple of weeks.”

I just can’t wrap my head around how this is a good deal for the ACC. Sure. Adding the Fighting Irish for the ACC would help “boost” the conference image as the rest of the conference has been pretty terrible as of late. But for only one season? What’s the point? In 20 years, nobody is going to talk how Notre Dame helped make the ACC the third best conference in the country during that season played during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now make no mistake, as a full time football member and if they had to share some of the NBC revenue, I’d be all for it. More competition in football, the ability to break up the divisions and just have to the two best teams in the title game each year, the chance to routinely make trips to South Bend (which I would bet to say is somewhere on most college football fans bucket list) and more. I get it and I’m fully on board in that case.

But Notre Dame ain’t sharing that money and the spineless ACC is just letting them run the show. Why? Cause Swafford is weak or, at best, simply doesn’t give a rip.

Since 1991, NBC has shelled out millions to have exclusive broadcast rights for Notre Dame home games, a deal valued at $15 million per year through 2025. Notre Dame also has an unusual agreement that enables its teams — save for football — to participate as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The arrangement effectively allows Notre Dame to maintain its NBC deal without adhering to the ACC’s revenue-sharing contracts for football. Along the way it also collects around $5.8 million in revenue-sharing payments from the ACC, equal to about half of what the conference’s other schools receive.


Earlier this summer, Swafford announced he plans to retire at the end of the 2020-2021 athletic calendar after what will be a 24-year career as commissioner. That will make the the longest tenure in league history. While I haven’t always (Read: have rarely) agreed with him, I appreciate what he has done for the conference and its expansion over the last decade. However, there won’t be any tears once he officially is out of office.

I can only hope that one of his parting gifts is sticking to his guns like he did when he first allowed Notre Dame into the ACC for the other sports. They want to remain independent as a football school? LET. THEM. Give them the six games, heck, give them 8-9 games if you want in 2020. Absolutely do what needs to happen to keep the marquee Clemson-Notre Dame game on the schedule for 2020. But don’t allow the Fighting Irish a one-year opportunity for a conference title they apparently don’t want in the first place.

I leave you with one last comment, Mr. Commissioner: