CHAPEL HILL — The ACC wanted Notre Dame. Notre Dame wanted to keep its tradition.
Ending long-standing rivalries with Southern California, Navy and other Big Ten schools was non-negotiable, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Wednesday after the introductory news conference at the University of North Carolina.
So the ACC cut a deal with Notre Dame: join our league for all other sports and play us five times a year in football.
The Irish will get to keep their traditions and the ACC will get five high-profile dates per year.
I thought it was the perfect compromise, Swarbrick said.
The plan is for the ACC and Notre Dame to begin their partnership, as school president John Jenkins called it, for the 2014 season. The Irish arent eligible to represent the ACC in a BCS bowl, but could play an ACC team in a BCS bowl, logically the Orange Bowl.
So, what is the ACC getting?
Notre Dame is the most recognizable brand in college football, has won 11 consensus national titles and produced seven Heisman Trophy winners.
"Historically, Notre Dame is the football school," N.C. State senior center Cam Wentz said. "It really adds a whole another dimension to the ACC."
But the iconic images of the "Golden Dome" and "Touchdown Jesus" dont inspire as much glory as they used to. Notre Dames last national title was 1988 and it hasnt been ranked in the top 5 nationally since 1993.
Still, the Fighting Irish brand has pull with television executives. Its unique deal with NBC, which began in 1991, is worth a reported $15 million a year through 2015.
The ACC wont get any of Notre Dames football money from NBC (and Notre Dame wont get any of the ACCs, ACC commissioner John Swofford said) but it will be able to leverage the home games with Irish, as many as three per year, to get more money out of ESPN, Swofford said.
And games at Notre Dame put ACC teams on national television.
Notre Dame already has a history with Boston College (18 games in the past 20 years), which joined the ACC in 2005, and has played historic games with Miami (in 1988 and 89) and Florida State (in 1993).
But keeping games with USC, a series which started in 1926, Navy (1914) and Purdue (first game in 1896 and theyve played every year since 1946) was more important to Swarbrick than joining a conference.
(Being an independent) is central to our identity now and we anticipate it continuing to be, Swarbrick said.
Swarbrick said he didnt anticipate any scenario in which Notre Dame would give up its independent football schedule.
The Irish have history, albeit less of it, with the ACC. Notre Dame is 20-3 against North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest, with losses to UNC in 2008 (which was later vacated) and N.C. State in 2003.
Notre Dame was 3-1 against the ACC last season en route to the second 8-5 finish for coach Brian Kelly. The Irish is ranked No. 20 in this weeks AP poll and will play Wake Forest, Miami and Boston College this season.
"We play them every year," Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said. I thought they were in the ACC to be honest with you.
Its not a full-time membership in football, but Notre Dame adds another program to the ACC mix that prioritizes football and has a significant fan base.
Only two ACC stadiums, Florida State (82,300) and Clemson (81,500), have a bigger capacity than Notre Dame (80,795).
I think both of us benefit, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said.
The only problem is the timing of the arrangement, Wentz, a senior said.
Its sad that I wont be here to play them," Wentz said. But Ill get to watch it on TV.