Today’s announcement that Notre Dame will move its non-football sports to the ACC has sent a large faction of Big 12 fans into a frenzy.
Although I understand why this is the case on the surface, I’m not so sure the announcement is worth getting worked up about.
For starters, it seems as if Notre Dame joining the Big 12, either entirely or as a partial member, was a longshot to begin with. There were talks and those talks were extensive, but I’ve been told that there was never a strong indication that the Fighting Irish, as things stand today, were ever really that interested in joining the Big 12.
The reasons for that are plentiful and include everything from academics and athletics to Notre Dame’s desire to maintain control.
As part of the agreement to join the ACC, Notre Dame will play five football games against ACC opponents annually but will continue to operate as an independent, which has been the school’s goal all along. That set-up is not a huge departure from what the Irish have done lately anyway. Just look at this year’s Notre Dame football schedule which includes Miami, Boston College, Wake Forest and Pitt, all schools that are in or will be in the ACC by the time Notre Dame joins.
In maintaining its independent status, the Irish not only will be able to continue their relationship with NBC, but also should be able to continue healthy rivalries with schools such as Navy, USC, Michigan State and others.
It’s a good move for the Irish and an even better move for the ACC. Looks like a win-win for both sides and, whenever that’s the case, it’s certainly hard to argue.
But enough about Notre Dame. What does all this mean for the Big 12?
In my mind, the answer to that is simple — the Big 12, as it has said for quite some time, will be staying at 10 teams for a long, long time.
There was some genuine interest in adding schools like Notre Dame or Florida State, but with those schools now off the table thanks to Notre Dame’s move to the ACC and the ACC’s simultaneous announcement that its exit fee would be increased to $50 million, those schools, along with Virginia Tech, Clemson and others now look to be off limits.
Quick sidenote: I can’t help but be mightily impressed by what the Big 12 and ACC have done in consecutive years in the face of uncertain and very dangerous futures. The Big 12 looked all but dead a year ago yet found a way to bounce back and flourish both in terms of its financial situation and its public image. Shortly after the Big 12 became more stable than ever, the ACC took its place on the chopping block and appeared to be equally as vulnerable, if not more so. Yet, here that conference is today, announcing the addition of Notre Dame and securing its future by agreeing to up its exit fee to an amount that no one would dare tangle with. Impressive.
And hopefully, just maybe, their moves can put an end to conference realignment for the foreseeable future. I won’t hold my breath on that, though.
The Big East, which has been in a tough spot all along, now becomes the most vulnerable league by far, with the Big 12, Big Ten and ACC all positioned to pick up any number of Big East defectors should it come to that. Maybe it won’t. But if the Big 12 were to make a move to expand, that’s likely where it would look.
Again, I don’t expect that to happen. I don’t think the remaining schools “out there” are impressive enough nor profitable enough for the Big 12 to want to bring them in to split the pie 12 ways instead of 10. It just doesn’t make sense to bring in schools for the sake of bringing them in when the schools you’re picking up don’t add much to the pot.
Louisville, UConn and even Rutgers all are intriguing options for various reasons, but neither of them is on par with the Notre Dames and Florida States of the world. And Big 12 leaders have said all along that it would take a special school for them to consider expanding. I don’t think the schools I mentioned above are considered special by anyone outside of their fan bases.
Adding any of those schools or a program like BYU (which isn’t happening) would not be a lucrative enough endeavor to make it worth the Big 12’s while.
I know the concept that bigger is better is tough for people to get past when it comes to realignment, but it’s important to remember that what’s good for one league isn’t necessarily what’s good for another.
The ACC now has 15 teams and the Big 12 has 10. Both appear to be stable and headed toward exciting and profitable futures. What’s wrong with that?