Notre Dame’s one year as a full-time member of the ACC was a relative success, but everyone from Notre Dame has been pretty clear that it was just a one-time thing. That hasn’t stopped the ACC from hoping, that the one-year fling turns into something permanent, however. ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips wasn’t shy about his desire for Notre Dame to join his conference permanently for football during the first day of ACC Media Day today.
“I think we all got a glimpse of what would be like to have Notre Dame in the conference this past fall. That was a really beautiful and beneficial relationship to both Notre Dame and the ACC,” Phillips saud. “They had a chance to play a fantastic schedule. They had a chance to vie for a national championship and compete in the CFP. We have a real-life example of what that could look like.”
Yes, Notre Dame did contend for a national championship and earn a spot in the CFP, but they did that in 2018 as well without needing to join the ACC full-time. To Phillips point of playing a fantastic schedule, one could easily argue that Notre Dame’s schedule was markedly easier playing in the ACC than it would have been otherwise. In future years, Notre Dame’s schedule also features more marque games than a typical ACC schedule allows for.
You can’t fault Phillips for wanting Notre Dame full-time though. At present, the ACC lacks a second marque team with Florida State a shell of what they once were. That could change, of course, with the Seminoles possessing everything they need to become dominant once again, but football-wise, the ACC has been a one team show since 2015.
Phillips spent four years working in the Notre Dame Athletics Department (2000-2004) and is well aware of Notre Dame’s preference for independence. “The old kind of quip is, Notre Dame loves two things: one is being Catholic, second is independence. Sometimes those things get in reverse order. Sometimes they like independence even more than being Catholic. “
While Phillips was joking, Notre Dame’s recent stance on the potential 12-team playoff expansion proved how serious they are at staying independent. Notre Dame is ready to give up the opportunity to earn a first round bye in order to maintain their independence.
Phillips is also very familiar with the powers that be at Notre Dame through his experience at the University as he reminded everyone on Wednesday. “When I look back, obviously I’ve spent time there. I think I have close ties there. I have a student-athlete son there and a daughter. So I think I know the institution pretty well – led by a terrific president in John Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick.”
As much as Phillips would love to add Notre Dame, he also knows that, at the present, the chances of that happening are slim. “They know the ACC’s interest. It’s been less than bashful. It’s been less than bashful since I’ve been here. But I also respect where they’re at. I respect where we’re at.”
On Wednesday news also broke that Texas and Oklahoma are interested in joining the SEC and that something could actually happen. That kind of conference realignment would be something to watch out for regarding Notre Dame and a conference if the “super conferences” eventually come to fruition. That news hadn’t broke yet when Phillips talked to the media, but he more than left the door open for Notre Dame.
“Who knows where the future’s going to go. But I love the group of schools that we have. You always have to be ready to add. Notre Dame, contractually, if they were to join a conference, again structured by Commissioner Swofford in 2013, would join the ACC. That’s where we’re at.”