Last week, our own Hokie Mark put together an article on his site, ACCFootballRx, taking a look at how a scheduling agreement between the ACC, Big 12 and Notre Dame could conceivably work out. While he does a great job of laying out the specifics, he and I also carried the conversation over to email afterward, to discuss the issue a bit more. In particular, we dove into Notre Dame’s willingness to participate, notes on television deals and West Virginia‘s desires in this proposed situation.
John: First and foremost, would Notre Dame want to partner with the Big 12 as a whole? I get the feeling they’d prefer to keep their primary opponents, five ACC teams and then have the flexibility to schedule the Big 12’s elite teams like Texas and Oklahoma.
Mark: I agree. That’s why I said I think this would have to fall somewhere between “rotating through all of the teams” and “just play the made-for-TV matchups.” I could see Notre Dame giving the Big 12 a list of teams they’d agree to play, which might look like this: Texas, Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State. (They’d leave out Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and West Virginia, in my opinion).
That may not go over so well with the four left out, but consider this: (1) WVU is more interested in the ACC scheduling part anyway, so skipping Notre Dame is probably fine with them; (2) Kansas, K-State and Iowa State are just happy to be in a BCS/power conference; (3) at any rate, that creates a 6-4 vote in favor of the deal.
John: Doesn’t the Big 12 need a two-thirds majority for critical decisions? (I thought that was the case, anyway) I mostly agree with your assessments of teams, though I’m not sure Baylor gets lumped in with the other five. Also agree that KU, KSU and ISU are all off the table; plus there’s no way Notre Dame’s scheduling (former head coach) Charlie Weis any time soon.
What kind of impact could we potentially see in terms of television contracts? How much would Notre Dame’s go up by? And each conference’s deals? Would this also put FOX into the bidding (along with ESPN and NBC) for Notre Dame’s contract that expires after 2014?
Mark: Good question. I’m told by a Notre Dame booster that the Irish are actually looking at this as something they want to do to insure the viability of their independence going forward. If true, money won’t be the no. 1 issue for them.
However, for the ACC and Big 12, you’re essentially replacing one mid-major or FCS game with a BCS-level opponent at a minimum (and possibly Notre Dame), so that is significant. ESPN’s contract with the ACC is really the key here, in my opinion. If they want to be sticklers for the letter of the law, the ACC will need to jump through some loopholes (like playing at neutral sites) in order to get maximum financial benefit (probably an extra $2 million per year would be my best guess).
And though FOX may bid on the Notre Dame contract, I think it’s shaping up as a two-horse race between NBC and ESPN… and ESPN has the bigger horse!
John: The note on neutral sites makes sense. I know Syracuse already books them for the Meadowlands (err… MetLife Stadium) every time now, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Boston College gets pushed to bring that game to Gillette Stadium. Curious where schools like Wake Forest would/could end up holding the game though, if not at their home field.
You mentioned that money appears not to be an object for Notre Dame and that independence is the top priority. But doesn’t money ensure that independence? I’d think the Irish have pretty much set that model — marquee opponents, major TV contract — in stone for the past 25 years or so, and it’s worked for both them and BYU pretty well.
Mark: Neutral sites first: All four of the NC schools plus Clemson can use Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC (Clemson can also use the Georgia Dome in Atlanta — it’s about the same distance). Virginia Tech and Virginia can use the Redskins’ FedEx Field. Syracuse can use either MetLife or Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY. As you mention, the BC Eagles are in great shape, and Louisville is not far from either Cincinnati or (gasp!) Indianapolis. The teams with the problem are Miami and Pittsburgh — though Tampa and Philadelphia might work out O.K. for them…
As for Notre Dame, they realize that money can’t buy them independence long-term. Not if the ACC and/or Big 12 get eaten by B1Gzilla — there won’t be anyone left worth playing. However, if they leave a small amount of money strategically on the table now, they may be able to remain independent (and playing mostly ACC and Big XII teams if they are ever frozen out by the Big Ten, Pac-12, and/or SEC).
John: Do you see them ever being frozen out by the Pac-12, Big Ten and/or SEC? I know they don’t play a ton of SEC teams to begin with, but would the Pac-12 willingly hang them out to dry? Can totally see the Big Ten doing so, of course.
Mark: I think the issue with the Pac-12 would be the fact that the conference wants to feed as many games as possible into the Pac-12 Network. They already play a nine-game conference schedule. Every year the conference as a whole “loses” one game to NBC because either USC or Stanford play in South Bend. Could the other teams become jealous because they never get to host the Irish? Even when Notre Dame plays another Pac-12 team — like Arizona State this year — it’s on a neutral field, and the Pac-12 Network has no shot at televising it.
Plenty to think about as this conversation potentially evolves into some real action. Obviously, there’s plenty of hurdles to getting it done, but at the same time, the result could end up being a lucrative proposition for all parties involved. If the Big 12, ACC and Notre Dame are all thinking smart, ensuring each other’s viability in the new college football landscape truly is the best way to go.
Thanks to Mark for taking the time to chat about this topic. And again, head over to ACCFootballRx to see more of Mark’s thoughts around this potential alliance.