Notre Dame is right where it belongs -- and ACC coaches are fine to dislike it


So ACC coaches are not exactly thrilled about Notre Dame's arrangement with the league. Who could have possibly seen this coming?

Is it the fact the Irish have a landing spot for their other sports while maintaining football independence?

Is it the fact the Irish get preferential treatment in the ACC bowl order despite not playing a full league slate?

Is it the fact the Irish reap all these benefits despite having had one legitimately successful football season in the past eight years?

It is all of that. And, frankly, no one can blame ACC coaches for feeling the way they do. The same way no one can blame Notre Dame for taking all that comes its way.

The problem for ACC coaches is, this is not in their control. If athletic directors or conference commissioners were banging against the wall about Notre Dame needing to join a conference, that would carry more weight. But they are not. Because as unfair as it may be on a school-to-school basis, the fact of the matter is the Notre Dame-ACC partnership, as a whole, remains a huge plus for the league:

  • ACC teams automatically improve their nonconference schedule strength every three years with the scheduled game against the Irish.

  • ACC teams almost automatically increase their home attendance when the Irish come to town, in addition to the number of eyeballs watching them on TV. (Look at the highest-priced games for 2015. You'll find plenty of people willing to shell out the big bucks to see a team coming off an 8-5 season. And it is not for NC State.)

  • Some of those ACC teams may even find themselves with less true road games, like Boston College will this season when playing the Irish near the Eagles' backyard, at Fenway Park.

  • The addition of the Irish elevated the ACC's postseason status, as the league's bowl lineup grew deeper and stronger last season.

To be fair, some of these coaches' gripes, or suggestions, are more measured than others. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson sounds like a man who wants a quality program added to his conference. Reasonable enough.

ACC coaches Jimbo Fisher, David Cutcliffe, Frank Beamer and Dave Doeren want the same. But they also appear to be forcing the issue on a 13th game.

The College Football Playoff is just one year old. The 13th game may have played a role last season -- when Ohio State routed a strong Wisconsin team in the Big Ten title game to sneak into the field -- but the sample size remains small. Would a win against Hawaii really be the difference-maker for Notre Dame to get in the playoff? Unlikely. Would the missed opportunity at getting a 12th or 13th win against a quality opponent in a league title game hurt the Irish's playoff hopes in a strong season? Perhaps.

But for now, that is a risk worth taking for the Irish. (Cue Irish fans stressing about not playing FCS teams. Cue fans of other schools saying that the Irish play UMass, which began its FBS transition just four years ago.)

Losing a résumé battle for a playoff spot is one thing; being banned from the playoff entirely is another. Which brings us to the strangest of the arguments floated out there recently, from Missouri coach Gary Pinkel (with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney's approval): That the pros do it differently.

The pros also have a salary cap. And revenue sharing. And reward the worst teams each year with better draft choices, to improve their chances of getting better.

If we're all about being fair, let's do away with the uneven athletic spending across the nation. Or TV deals for bigger schools and conferences to cash in on. Or academic standards altogether.