The Irish are coming

September 15, 2012 

It’s true that northern Indiana has a coast of sorts. It even has impressive sand dunes. But just on the basis of geographical truth in advertising, proximity to Lake Michigan doesn’t count as proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

Did any of that matter to the Atlantic Coast Conference or to the University of Notre Dame, which is set to become a conference member – full-fledged in all sports except football – as soon as it can be arranged? Nah.

This is a marriage of convenience both for Notre Dame, the well-regarded Catholic university in South Bend, Ind. that happens to have the richest football tradition of them all, and for the ACC, which puts more sizzle – and marketability – in its sports offerings by virtue of Notre Dame’s high profile.

The ACC, with N.C. State, UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke and Wake Forest as core members, long since has outgrown its traditional mid-Atlantic roots. The trend toward larger, consolidated conferences is a national one, and mirrors trends in other industries (a word used advisedly). Notre Dame was concerned that its cherished fully independent status in football was becoming problematic and so opted to align with a conference it sees as a good fit in both athletics and academics. Tough luck for the struggling Big East Conference, which will bid Notre Dame basketball and other sports adieu.

When it comes to Fighting Irish football, the ACC will settle for half a loaf. Notre Dame will play five conference games, but otherwise remain free to schedule who it wants and to cater to its huge national following via a lucrative TV contract.

ACC schools’ athletics departments will see higher travel expenses, yet those schools are enthusiastic about bringing Notre Dame into the fold. “Strengthening the brand,” it’s called. And if there’s any place these days where the bottom line matters, it’s college sports.

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