As conferences scramble to modify college football schedules in preparation for the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, no program’s slate is more up in the air than that of independent Notre Dame.
Good thing the school has a one-foot-in, one-foot-out deal with the Atlantic Coast Conference that could serve as a way to rebuild the Fighting Irish’s 2020 football schedule.
According to TMG’s Tony Barnhart, the ACC presidents will meet Wednesday to discuss a trio of scheduling options. Two of the three schedule formats “would bring in Notre Dame as a full member of the ACC for one year only and eligible to play for the conference championship,” per the report.
Barnhart also reports the ACC is expected to “do away with divisional play and choose the top two teams in the 15-team league (including Notre Dame) to play in the conference championship game.”
Notre Dame already has six ACC opponents — Wake Forest, Pittsburgh, Duke, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville — on its 2020 football schedule as part of the school’s contract with the conference. The contract allows Notre Dame to maintain its football independence while all other sports except hockey compete in the ACC.
The first (and reportedly least likely) scenario the ACC presidents will consider is the conference’s current schedule (starting Sept. 5) that includes 12 total games and eight conference games. That scenario would leave Notre Dame out as a full member.
The second scenario is an 11-game season with 10 conference games and one non-conference game. It would push back the start of the season one week. The third scenario is a nine-game season with eight conference games and one non-conference game, which would push the start of the season back to “around Sept. 26.”
Notre Dame has already seen three games wiped away from its 2020 football schedule. When the Big Ten announced it would play the 2020 season with conference games only, the Notre Dame-Wisconsin game that would have been played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., was canceled.
The Pac-12 made the same move earlier this month, which led to the cancellation of Notre Dame’s football games against USC and Stanford.
Notre Dame’s agreement with the ACC, which was established in 2014 and has been extended to last through at least 2037, is such that the Fighting Irish are obligated to play at least five ACC opponents per season in football.
The advantages for the ACC are simple: It gets the TV ratings and attendance boosts associated with Notre Dame away games, and if Notre Dame were to give up its football independence, it would be obligated to join the ACC.
The advantages for Notre Dame are equally simple: It gets a portion of ACC revenue, participates in the conference’s bowl tie-ins and, perhaps most importantly, preserves its football independence. And in 2020, the deal could be a savior for Notre Dame’s football schedule.