Upon Further Review
9:29 PM EDT, September 17, 2012
The announcement Wednesday that Notre Dame will join the ACC shook the sports world.
Recently a national columnist wrote an article expressing his opinion that Notre Dame was no longer relevant. He grabbed for the typical low-hanging fruit...poor bowl record, lack of national championships in football...and chastised the university for it's commitment to football independence, rather than recognizing that Notre Dame is likely the only major university in America that is capable of such an existence.
"Notre Dame is not a national brand any more than USC, Alabama or Stanford", he wrote.
I couldn't disagree more. The events of the last week are proof that Notre Dame has never been more relevant than they are right now.
"I was gratified by the reaction", Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in the hours following the announcement that Notre Dame was joining the ACC. "It's an awful lot of attention for a school that isn't relevant anymore."
Jack Swarbrick's jab at the recent criticism Notre Dame faces was more than warranted. It was right on the money. Less than two months removed from negotiating Notre Dame's place in the new college football playoff, he found a home for the rest of the Irish sports teams without sacrificing football independence. And he managed to finagle a place in the ACC bowl package as well. Talk about having your cake and eating it too!
Notre Dame will enjoy all the benefits of being in a conference in football, without losing their independence, or the TV contract and BCS bowl tie in that comes long with it! And their traditional schedule will maintain much of it's current national flavor.
Here's the best part. The ACC thinks they're the ones getting a better deal! They get the Notre Dame brand. And that brand stands to make them more profitable in every major sport. Landing Notre Dame, along with Pitt and Syracuse, will easily make the ACC the best men's basketball conference in America. The women's basketball program alone will make the ACC the strongest women's league in America. Same goes for sports like baseball, lacrosse, and many others. And playing five football games a year against Notre Dame will allow the ACC to negotiate a much more lucrative television contract and enticing bowl line-up when their current deals expire.
How's that for relevant?
Speaking of football, Notre Dame's win over Michigan State Saturday night comes at quite a time! It's their first over a Top Ten team since 2005. And it has the Irish ranked as high as they've been in the polls since 2006. Off to their best start since 2002. None of this on it's own signifies relevance. But they're a quarter of the way through the toughest schedule in America...and still undefeated, when very few people thought they would be.
Brian Kelly referred to the win over MSU as a "Signature Win". It certainly could be, if the Irish follow it up with a strong season. Whether or not they will remains to be seen. But this I know: The whole college football world is gonna have it's eyes on South Bend this Saturday night, to see if the Irish can do it again. And if they can, the momentum may big too big for even the most cynical of folks to deny. There's nothing irrelevant here!
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