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How The Notre Dame-ACC Football Scheduling Sausage Is Made

Yeah, it's complicated.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Ken Sugiura wrote an interesting article on how Notre Dame and the ACC are working together to finalize the remaining games for the Irish's 12-year, 60-game contract with the conference. Much of this was either known or the subject of much conjecture in the past, though it is interesting to see just how the schedule is going to come about.

Games between the ACC and Notre Dame have already been set for the first three years of the deal (2014-16) and it sounds like the remaining three-quarters of the rotation will be finalized shortly. An announcement could come as soon as next month.

Boston College's first game against Notre Dame as part of the scheduling arrangement will take place at Fenway Park on November 21, 2015 (an Irish home game). Notre Dame returns to Boston two years later for a road game at the Heights in 2017.

Let's take a closer look at how the factors influencing the scheduling of the remainder of the Irish's contract with the ACC.

Every team will play Notre Dame four times and four teams will play the Irish a fifth time. The schedule is for 60 games over 12 years.

It largely won't be a model where any team will play Notre Dame every three years, as there's too many moving parts for that to happen.

Well, that's ... sort of disappointing. When the deal was announced, I think the initial understanding of the deal was that the Irish would play 15 ACC teams in a three-year cycle, with one ACC team nabbing that 15th game. At the time, it appeared that Syracuse grabbed the 15th game over the first three-year cycle with two games at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. Boston College and Pittsburgh fans were probably hoping that either the Panthers or Eagles would find their way onto the schedule more than other ACC programs given both program's past history with Notre Dame. Doesn't sound like that will be the case.

Instead, sounds like most ACC programs will only get four Notre Dame games in 12 years, with four receiving at most five games. My guess is BC and Pitt will grab two of those five-game deals, and perhaps Florida State (?) receives the fourth for TV purposes.

Not having one Notre Dame game every three years guaranteed is also disappointing. This opens up the possibility that an entire recruiting class could go their entire college career without ever facing the Irish. BC could run into that situation if they never grab one of the five-game scheduling slots with having half of their games against Notre Dame over the first four years of the agreement (leaving two games over the remaining eight years).

Sugiura then gets into the various factors that Notre Dame and ACC officials take into consideration when setting the scheduling rotation. Among them:

Notre Dame's contracted games with Stanford and USC, which means also dealing with the Pac-12's scheduling model, and Navy.

This isn't a terribly onerous requirement right now. Notre Dame typically plays either Stanford or USC in early- to mid-October at home and ends the season in California against the other. Now that the Pac-12 has a Championship Game, they end the regular season on the same weekend as the ACC, which already has its designated rivalry games (four ACC-SEC affairs and five ACC rivalries). So ACC teams wouldn't see the Irish on the regular season's final weekend anyway.

Navy is an independent ... now, and as such has complete scheduling flexibility. But the Midshipmen are set to move to the American Athletic Conference beginning in 2015, which means having to deal with yet another conference scheduling model. Joy!

Schedule balance for Notre Dame. As [ACC senior associate commissioner Michael] Strickland put it, "You wouldn't want, nor would they ever agree to it, where they have to play Southern Cal, Florida State, Clemson and Miami four in a row."

Cute that Miami is still listed as a power program, but I digress. Mustn't make the Irish's schedule too daunting.

Then again, I'm also not sure exactly why this is being factored in here. Here's a hypothetical: Notre Dame and the ACC sit down at the conclusion of the 2006 season to plan out the Irish's nine-year schedule rotation. For the 2013 season, they decide they don't want to face USC, Wake Forest (11-3), Boston College (10-3) and Virginia Tech (10-3) four in a row. Instead, they opt to schedule games against Duke (0-12), Florida State (7-6) and North Carolina (3-9) during those three weeks. You get the idea. Point is schedule balance is very much a moving target. Outside of, say, Florida State, neither the league nor Notre Dame could say which programs will be great eight years down the line. (Still waiting on that mythical Florida State-Miami ACC Championship Game matchup a decade later).

This is bound to bite the Irish in the ass at least once over the life of this arrangement. You will hear about it from Irish fans incessantly.

The four built-in rivalry games for Tech, Clemson, Florida State and Louisville, as those teams' preference, Strickland said, would be to avoid playing their rivalry game and the Notre Dame both on the road in the same year.

Here's the first ACC-specific scheduling factor (and the order here is probably not a coincidence). This one doesn't apply to BC.

This is my favorite - NBC's fall sports lineup. When NBC carries events like the Ryder Cup and the Breeders' Cup on autumn Saturdays, Notre Dame can't play at home, as the network is contracted to carry all Notre Dame home games.

This is one of the more interesting and ridiculous requirements. Not only does the conference need to work around the Pac-12 (Stanford and USC), the American Athletic Conference (Navy), Notre Dame and ACC teams with permanent non-conference rivals from major conferences (Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville), they also have to work in the Ryder Cup, the Breeders' Cup and any other major sporting events whose media rights are owned by NBCUniversal. I suppose it's a good thing that the Olympics and the EPL don't overlap with college football for fall Saturday broadcast slots.

The kicker is, other than for some national TV exposure, all of the benefit of catering to the demands of Notre Dame's television partners goes to Notre Dame; not the ACC.

The schedules for all 14 ACC teams. It can be presumed, for instance, that Tech would prefer to not play Notre Dame the week before it plays Georgia.

Last, and probably least, we get to the demands of the proletariat ... the 14 ACC teams. I can't imagine Boston College making too big of a fuss over when, specifically, they play the Irish, other than maybe not ending the season with consecutive "road" games at Notre Dame and Syracuse to end the year -- checks 2015 schedule ... never mind. I'm guessing BC will take what they can get here.

So, having gone through the rather complicated and seemingly Irish-first factors that go into Notre Dame's scheduling arrangement with the ACC, where does that leave Boston College? The Eagles already have games with Notre Dame in 2015 (Fenway Park) and 2017 (Chestnut Hill) leaving 2-3 games left to be scheduled against the Irish over the next eight seasons (2018-2025).

If BC is only going to get two more cracks at this, you'd want to space out the games in a way that guarantees at least one Notre Dame game every four years (so one class doesn't go a full four years without a game vs. ND). The non-conference series against Ohio State (2023-24) looms large, and while a schedule with Ohio State, Notre Dame and an eight-game ACC schedule would be great for fans, I'm not sure how practical that is. Call it 2021 at Notre Dame, with the last return trip to the Heights in 2025, the season after the Ohio State home game. Should BC receive the Jack Swarbrick Golden Ticket blessing the program with a fifth game, 2020 (at Notre Dame), 2022 (at Notre Dame) and 2025 (Notre Dame) seems to be the best possible setup for the Eagles.