Notre Dame was apparently the elephant in the room during Day 1 of ACC media days Sunday.
The first question that conference commissioner John Swofford faced was about the Irish, who will be an ACC member in all sports but football during the 2013-14 academic year, and whose football team will play five ACC games per year beginning in the fall of 2014.
From the news conference:
I wanted to ask you about the school whose helmet isn't up there, Notre Dame. Earlier this month, Mike Krzyzewski and Steve Spurrier both spoke publicly and negatively about the decision to allow them to maintain independence while joining the league in every other sport. I'd be curious about your response to their comments, and given this precedent do you anticipate other ACC schools may approach you asking to take their signature sports independent? In other words, if Florida State football or Duke basketball wanted to be independent in that one sport, what would you say to them?
Swofford: Well, number one, that was discussed when the league made the decision to bring Notre Dame in. I think bringing Notre Dame in is the right thing to do at this point in time. It was a unanimous decision by our institutions and a very positive one that has already benefitted us, without question. So I think Notre Dame is a great addition.
If they ever do decide that they are going to join a conference in football, through the 2026‑27 year, that conference by contractual agreement would be the Atlantic Coast Conference.
But I'm really pleased, and I know the vast majority of people in our league are very pleased that Notre Dame is a part of the ACC family.
Under the conditions that they're currently under, and certainly if they ever make the decision to join football-wise during that period of time, they would be welcome with open arms.
The most noteworthy part of Swofford's answer, of course, is that if Notre Dame decides to join a conference in football sometime before 2026-27, the school is contractually obligated to join the ACC. This is not all that surprising, given the seemingly sweetheart deal that the Irish were able to pull off with the conference. And, ultimately, it probably will not matter.
Notre Dame football was a strong entity before its renaissance 2012 campaign. It is only stronger now, and the ACC deal gives the school the best of both worlds -- notably a safe landing spot for its other sports and easier bowl access for the football team.