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Notre Dame to become ACC member in all sports except football

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer
Notre Dame will play five ACC opponents per year in football as partial league members. (US Presswire)

Notre Dame will join the ACC as a full member in all sports except football and hockey, the conference announced Tuesday.

The Fighting Irish will remain independent in football and enter a scheduling agreement with the league that will guarantee five games per year against ACC opponents.

"We are committed to keeping the Atlantic Coast Conference a vibrant and competitive league dedicated to ensuring the appropriate balance of academics, athletics and integrity," said the ACC Council of Presidents in a joint statement. "The addition of Notre Dame further strengthens the rich tradition and culture of the ACC as well as allowing for future academic collaboration and we enthusiastically welcome them into the league."

The Fighting Irish play four future ACC opponents in their 2012 schedule, and have been in long-term scheduling agreements with several ACC opponents.

"We have monitored the changing conference landscape for many months and have concluded that moving to the ACC is the best course of action for us," said Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame vice president and athletic director. "We are able to maintain our historic independence in football, join in the ACC's non-BCS bowl package, and provide a new and extremely competitive home for our other sports."

The timetable for Notre Dame's move to the ACC has yet to be determined. The ACC will respect the Big East's required 27-month notice for departure, though Jack Swarbrick said they will look for opportunities to "accelerate" that process. As partial members, Notre Dame will be required to pay only $5 million of the $10 million buyout. Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and West Virginia all negotiated higher buyouts in exchange for a more immediate exit. West Virginia reportedly negotiated its departure from the Big East to the Big 12 for approximately $20 million.

"Notre Dame has been a valued member of the Big East Conference and we wish them success in the future," Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said in an official statement. "However, Notre Dame's departure does not change our plans. We have prestigious institutions that are excited to be a part of the Big East. We remain committed to making the Big East stronger than it has ever been."

Notre Dame's addition will also allow the ACC to renegotiate its media-rights deal with ESPN. The current deal is set to pay out approximately $17 million per school, but the addition of the Irish in basketball and baseball (among other Olympic sports), and any Notre Dame-ACC football games played away from South Bend create additional inventory for negotiation. Notre Dame's current media rights deal with NBC runs through 2015, and it is expected the school will not be required to share that revenue with the rest of the league.

With this agreement, Notre Dame will also become eligible for the ACC's non-BCS bowl tie-ins. According to commissioner John Swofford, Notre Dame will have a provision that requires the Irish to be ranked higher than, equal to, or within one win of a full ACC member to be selected above them in the league's non-BCS bowl selection order. Swofford also confirmed that Notre Dame is one of several potential opponents for the ACC in the Orange Bowl. The Orange Bowl revenue, along with all football-related revenue, will be shared equally among the 14 all-sports members. The Irish will be equal sharing members for all television revenue for Olympic sports, which Swofford estimated as "20 percent" of the ESPN deal.

"Speaking strictly from a football standpoint, we have further solidified our future as an independent in college football, maintained our unique ability to schedule nationally and greatly improved our postseason bowl game options," said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. "I applaud Father Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick for this move. They have set our entire athletics department up for great success in the future."

In perhaps a bigger development for the stability of the ACC, the league presidents also voted to increase the conference exit fees to three times the annual operating budget. With the ACC's current budget, the exit fee exceeds $50 million. That new exit fee goes into effect immediately and does apply to Notre Dame.

The first increase in exit fees came with the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and now this significant bump further displays a commitment from the current ACC members.

With every wave of conference realignment, ACC football powers like Florida State and Clemson are rumored targets for possible Big 12 expansion. With the addition of Notre Dame -- guaranteeing at least one showdown with the Irish every three years -- and the increase of the exit fees, the ACC appears to be more stable than ever.

A press conference to announce the addition of Notre Dame to the conference will be held Wednesday afternoon at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill.

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