North Carolina

Late Hits: Notre Dame loss could be a win-win for ACC

John Swofford doesn’t have a mustache. It would be a whole lot cooler if he did.

The conspiracy theory scenario of Swofford sitting in an underground lair in Greensboro controlling the ACC and its officials, without a Rollie Fingers mustache, is just little too blah.

Imagine: The piano rambles, the ACC commissioner twists his evil mustache, buzzes in a late penalty in the Florida State-Notre Dame game, then lets out a chortle: “I’ve got you now, Golden Domers.”

End scene.

Florida State’s 31-27 pulsating win over Notre Dame on Saturday night was good for the ACC and good for Swofford, no doubt.

And the pass interference call which cost Notre Dame the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left in the game was curious, and never – never, ever, ever, in a million years – would have been called at Notre Dame.*

(*Unless it was “roughing the snapper.”)

Instead of cooking up a Swofford/ACC conspiracy, let’s give the game officials some credit. Notre Dame receiver C.J. Prosise set a blatant pick (which is against the rules) on Florida State’s Jalen Ramsay in the end zone, springing Irish receiver Corey Robinson for the apparent game-winning touchdown.

If the same play had happened on the first drive of the first quarter, it would have been called pass interference. Just because it happened on the last drive of the fourth quarter, with a College Football Playoff berth ostensibly on the line, the penalty shouldn’t be ignored.

In the end, Florida State and quarterback Jameis Winston (speaking of easily depicted villains) win again. That’s 23 in a row and the Seminoles move into prime position to claim one of the four CFP spots.

That’s big for the ACC, too, no doubt. The Seminoles won the national title last year, ending the SEC’s seven-year reign by beating an SEC team (Auburn), but the ACC still has its doubters.

Bigger for the ACC would be for a one-loss Notre Dame team to get left out of the playoff. The only way the ACC will ever get Notre Dame to join the conference as a full member is for the Irish’s football program to be damaged by its independence.

By harboring Notre Dame’s basketball and nonrevenue teams, the ACC’s giving away the milk. Notre Dame’s not buying the cow when it has such a sweet deal (in return, it must play five ACC games, you know, except this year because it didn’t want to play Wake Forest).

Even when the Irish’s legendary football program was in the tank in the mid-1990s and into most of the 2000s, it was propped up by NBC’s money and the Big Ten’s stubbornness.

The Irish renewed their relevance by going 12-0 during the 2012 regular season and playing for the BCS title. Since that embarrassing loss to Alabama in the title game, the school has found a home for its other athletic teams in the ACC.

But times have changed. There are only four seats at the playoff table with five major conferences. Notre Dame has weaseled its way to access but how many times will it find a sympathetic ear on the selection committee?

The ACC, on the football side, needs more nights like Saturday with ESPN cutting away to commercial to a gigantic national audience with Chris Fowler saying, “You’re watching ACC football on ESPN.”

Notre Dame’s not giving up control of its football schedule until it absolutely has to. After Saturday’s drama, and Notre Dame’s loss, you can’t help but wonder if we didn’t take one step closer to Notre Dame moving into the ACC full time.

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