There’s just too much money in it for Notre Dame to completely give up on being independent. They’re playing more against ACC opponents this season yes, but it seems that the big wave of conference realignments are over, with many waiting to see if the Fighting Irish finally make the unspeakable change of actually becoming part of a conference.
Geographically and considering two of their most traditional rivals, Michigan and Michigan State, the Big Ten always made a lot of sense for Notre Dame. Purdue have also been part of that schedule although obviously they are not that big of a name, with the same being said about Indiana, despite the in-state ties.
In 2015, Notre Dame won’t be playing Michigan. They also won’t be playing Michigan State, but that begins in 2014. Brady Hoke said this was chickening out, although there’s nothing really scary about Michigan in the last couple of seasons. Those defending the changes in Notre Dame’s schedule say it’s time for a change, and that their rival list in recent years has grown slightly stagnant.
So what’s new now? They’ve met with ACC opponents before, but their contract with the ACC means five “conference” games. This season it’s only four: North Carolina, Syracuse, Louisville and a big one against Florida State. Still, Notre Dame can’t play for the ACC title and it just remains as a way to dip their feet in the water without changing the core of what the program is about.
Changes happen, even for a university and program that isn’t exactly fond of change like Notre Dame. Maybe this is the beginning of succumbing to the future that they hoped would never arrived. The name and the lack of achievements aren’t enough to attract big talent anymore, although there’s a limitations on what players can come anyway. Playing in Florida, playing in California, it’s all a key for any school in recruiting. You can keep that going with the right kind of scheduling even if they become a full fledged member of the ACC in football as well.
It’s probably going to be a long time before the Irish move on from five games against the ACC, something that took a long time to get to as well. But tradition and practicality are always at a clash in College Football, maybe even more so for a school like Notre Dame, who might eventually surprise everyone and become more than just someone who is testing the waters, and becomes a full fledged member of the realignment movement.