Could the Notre Dame Fighting Irish be heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference earlier than anticipated? Back when the move was announced, the Big East quickly pointed to the 27-month waiting period mandated by its bylaws. But the Big East and the school have started discussions about leaving the conference earlier than anticipated, possibly as soon as next season.
"Notre Dame has expressed interest in at least discussing leaving early," [Big East Commissioner Mike] Aresco told the Tribune. "We'll have a discussion about it. (Athletic director) Jack (Swarbrick) wasn't sure what they were going to do at this point.
"He and I are going to have some discussions regarding that, but nobody has said, 'We definitely want to do 'X,' or we definitely want to do 'Y.' We'll adhere to the bylaws, and if there is a desire to do something sooner, then obviously it would have to be something we could agree to."
You can be sure that if the Irish want out of the Big East after this season, the school will get out. If Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and TCU could all manage to leave early, it's dollars to donuts that Notre Dame will become a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference for all sports except football and hockey starting next season. The question left is what non-monetary concessions will be made as part of Notre Dame's exit agreement? How many future Rutgers-Notre Dame and UConn-Notre Dame football games will we be subjected to as part of this arrangement?
The impact of the Irish joining the ACC in time for the 2013-14 season are obvious for the sports that they'll become full-fledged members in, but what about football? Will Notre Dame get to join the conference a year before the football scheduling arrangement kicks in (presumed to be 2014)? And that's fair ... how, exactly? I realize the ACC has little to no leverage at this point, but wasn't part of the deal for providing a stable home for Notre Dame's basketball and Olympic sports five football games a year against ACC opponents?
As it stands now, Notre Dame has just one game against an ACC opponent in 2013 -- at Pittsburgh on November 9, 2013 -- and an entirely full slate of games scheduled. It's one thing if the Irish are willing to move four games off the 2013 schedule to cater for the ACC, as many programs will now have to scramble to find a 12th opponent given the league's decision to move back to an eight-game conference schedule. That would be a nice gesture now, wouldn't it?
But it's another thing entirely if the Irish are going to join the ACC as early as next season but only play one ACC football program in 2013 (and one of the new kids on the block at that).
Like I said, the ACC likely has little to no leverage in this situation, but something about this doesn't sit well with me. Isn't five football games part of the deal? Is Notre Dame going to make this up with more games in subsequent seasons when the Irish's future schedules free up? Why do I feel like this is just one more concession the ACC will make to kowtow to a football program that hasn't been nationally relevant in more than a decade.