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The 16-Team ACC Is Here, If UConn Can Convince Notre Dame To Give Up Football Independence

According to the Hartford Courant, the ACC has a 16-team expansion model that includes UConn, but only if Notre Dame wants to come along, too.

"Sources told The Courant recently that the ACC has a 16-team model in place with its first choices being Notre Dame and UConn, but with Notre Dame maintaining its independent position there is no rush to go to 16. If the ACC can't convince Notre Dame, Rutgers could get the call with UConn, but sources say there is no rush there, either."

Does DeFilippo know? I thought it's a matter of turf ... and Catholicism!

Reality: any further ACC expansion is predicated on what Notre Dame decides to do, and the Irish certainly aren't in a rush to give up its football independence. So long as Notre Dame has a seat at the BCS / playoff table and NBC Sports continues to pay the bills, there's no incentive for the Irish to join either the ACC or the Big Ten and give up football independence.

Until Notre Dame is officially off the board, the ACC will continue to keep a seat warm for the Irish.

With the ACC moving to a nine-game conference schedule, and the Pac-12 already there, this could squeeze the Irish a bit when it comes to scheduling. Same could be said for Navy's pending move to Big East football. But the fact is that ACC programs are willing enablers of Notre Dame football independence.

So long as Miami is willing to schedule an early October game against the Irish at Soldier Field, Pitt, BC and Wake Forest schedule the Irish in back-to-back-to-back weekends in November or Syracuse faces the Irish in late September in the Meadowlands, Notre Dame will have enough opponents to fill the schedule between the beginning of the year (Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue of the Big Ten) and the end of the year (USC and Stanford of the Pac-12).

If the ACC wanted to get serious about bringing Irish football into the fold, a simple scheduling change could ultimately force Notre Dame's hand. At the very least, it would prove just how much the Irish value football series with Pitt, Boston College and other ACC programs between games against Big Ten opponents at the beginning of the year and Pac-12 programs at the end.

Notre Dame is in no rush to join a conference. I also don't believe the ACC is in any rush to expand before going through the teething pains of operating a 14-team conference. Still, there are external factors -- the Irish's expiring TV deal, college football postseason changes, a stable conference for Olympic sports -- that could force Notre Dame to go running for the Big Ten or the ACC.

I suppose Notre Dame joining the conference wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, right? Even if the Irish were a package deal with the Huskies?