By Todd Helmick Owner & Operator


No, this is not a confirmed statement, but a specific prediction. We have been telling everyone since July that Notre Dame was on the primary list of choices, but not many bothered to pay any attention. Since the ACC expansion movement this past summer, Miami and Virginia Tech have been added to the soirée of nine current ACC teams, giving the league a total of eleven teams starting in 2004. Now, the conversations have steered toward who that 12th team will be.

Grab hold of your hats ACC fans - Notre Dame is negotiating with ACC officials as possibly becoming a "PART-TIME" addition in these early stages of expansion. To what extent may be anyone's guess, however. The Charlotte Observer today reported that two options are being laid on the table for discussion, both of which would allow Notre Dame to become a full-time ACC member in every sport but football.

1) The Irish must schedule a certain number of games with ACC members (at least three). This is a current situation Notre Dame has with the diminishing Big East Conference, where visits to Pittsburgh, Boston College and Syracuse have dotted the Irish's recent schedule.

2) The Irish must commit to eventually becoming a full-time football member within a certain timeframe.

Hold on…that timeframe window may be within a decade.


A conversation with long time FSU coach Jim Gladden revealed what few of us were thinking. Coach Gladden has been a coach at FSU for 27 years, one year longer than Bobby Bowden, and now works inside the Seminole Athletic Department as part of the Seminole Boosters. Coach Gladden claimed months ago that Notre Dame would likely be the candidate for that 12th team, in his educated opinion. Before you write his sentiments off, you may want to hear him out as we expand on some of his ideas.

NBC CONTRACT - Notre Dame is a media money market, but the impression seems to be that NBC will likely not resign an exclusive contract to televise Notre Dame home games after the 2005 season contract expires, making it more likely that Notre Dame will need to be more financially conscious of it's athletic budgetary decisions.

BCS CONTRACT - Quite ironic is the fact the current BCS contract also expires at the conclusion of the 2005 season. So where will the current Notre Dame BCS clause stand with the non-BCS coalition being led by Tulane President Scott Cowen? The non-BCS coalition demands for a slice of the pie won't just disappear. If wishes come true and the non-BCS gets its clause…well, the Irish will have to rest their hopes on the fact that the Big East would likely lose their automatic BCS bid, leaving another open door for the independent Irish. By joining the ACC, ND will automatically be granted the chance to reach BCS status in the post-season.

PLAY-OFFS COMING - Most important, the ACC expansion issue was originated under the train of thought that a play-off is forth coming and "super-conferences" with 12 teams were going to receive "preferential treatment" in this process. This includes getting more than one team into the playoff. Adding Notre Dame places a certifiable "passing of GO and collection of $10 million". In fact, the ACC may just be trying to buy that piece of insurance with Notre Dame much like they accomplished by the addition of Miami. If the ACC didn't move first in this day of the expanding market, someone else would have and the ACC could have been left with slim pickings.

BIG TEN FEATHERS RUFFLED - Jim Gladden is quick to note what many suspect inside the circle. After decades of disputes between television rights and money profits, the final straw in the preverbal "Big Ten/Notre Dame haystack" may have been used up when Penn State jumped into the Big Ten and Notre Dame was given the green light invitation to follow suit. The problem is Notre Dame didn't want any parts of the Big Ten at the time. Irreparable damage may have been done with the Big Ten powers that be; at least that's how it now appears. The Big Ten has stated publicly they are still talking with Notre Dame. But after Notre Dame took the Big East "other sports" deal, it's likely the Irish would be looking for much the same if a conference like the ACC is willing to allow Notre Dame to keep their precious football rights and money to themselves while joining other sports. It's doubtful the Big Ten would concede such concessions at this point.

At present, the NCAA rules dictate that you must have 12 teams in your conference to be eligible for a conference championship game, much like the Big XII and the SEC currently utilize. The ACC has already petitioned the NCAA to lower that bar down to ten teams. That request was just denied! No Conference Championship for the ACC in 2004. Now the ACC must move fast to produce a 12th team. Interestingly enough, a part-time Notre Dame would not qualify as a solid 12th team in order to get that Championship Game. Now Notre Dame, the Big Ten, and the ACC are stuck with a choice. This thing just got very interesting.


The ACC is pushing this envelope more than any conference. The fit is just right for Notre Dame if the ACC is willing to let them in all sports but football. Even if the Big East remains in tact, Notre Dame will not jump on that "scaled down" football version at the risk of being left out of the BCS post-season. It's just a matter of time before Notre Dame says bye-bye to the Big East. Maybe not in all sports, but football is out.

Sure, if you are an ACC fan, you may be telling yourself this cannot be happening…Notre Dame in all sports but football? Considering the lofty stance basketball powers - from Maryland to Carolina - have attempted to implement in these merger issues, one would think that if Syracuse and Boston College were too far outside the regional district to be added, then South Bend in the cold of winter has to be an even more obscene choice. Either the Irish join full-time in all sports or get out. ACC fans can thank their lucky stars the NCAA appears to have upheld needing 12 teams for a conference championship game. If someone had the guts to let the cards play out, it appears Notre Dame would have to join a conference in due time. Most likely they would be headed to the Big Ten with its regional fit unless ACC officials extend the "part-time" offer. Then again, we see how much the addition of part-time Notre Dame helped the Big East football opportunities.

Gladden's points are well presented in their thorough nature. Strung together, it is hard to deny the logic presented for where the Irish are headed, all things remaining constant. One aspect is certain now with the NCAA rejecting the ACC petition for a Conference Championship Game, there will be a 12th team added. Who's it going to be? As Jim Gladden says, "There's a lot more people watching TV's in Boston and in Notre Dame living rooms." Doesn't that just about say it all? Note to Irish or out? The ball is in your court as the ACC's first choice.



Charlotte Observer Article - NCAA Informally Rejects ACC Petition