"I couldn't really hear the question…"
As ACC commissioner John Swofford said it, he smiled slyly at Caulton Tudor. The longtime News & Observer columnist and Tobacco Road's poet laureate had just taken his turn at the commissioner's annual ACC Football Kickoff news conference and the question was very simple.
Would Notre Dame ever be a part of the ACC?
Swofford, as always, handled the topic with polite strength. After drawing a round of laughter with his response, he merely reminded that he doesn't comment on schools outside of his conference (at least not when it comes to realignment).
Yes, Notre Dame hasn't won a national title since 1988. Yes, the Fighting Irish have still never won a BCS bowl. But yes, they are also still the only stand-alone team that gets a seat at the college football power meetings, sitting alongside conferences.
Now those conferences want the Irish on board, whether those leagues will admit it publicly or not. Why? Because the golden ND is still one of the few genuinely national brands in collegiate sports. They are the last big fish not already in a BCS conference pond.