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Irish move strikes a balance


September 23, 2012
Brian Irwin ( , The Altoona Mirror

Notre Dame announced last week that it was moving from the Big East to the ACC.

To Rick Reilly's surprise, the sports world took notice.

For all sports but football and hockey, Notre Dame will compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and they've committed to five games per year against ACC opponents in future football schedules.

The local reaction that I've noticed is a disappointment that Notre Dame didn't join the Big Ten and confusion as to the synergy between a school that plays in the snow and many schools that play near the beach.

The No. 1 priority at Notre Dame has been to maintain its football independence. To some, Notre Dame has been categorized as being arrogant for this wish.

The bottom line is there isn't a better situation for a program to be in than to be independent from a conference.

It means flexibility to schedule anyone and, for Notre Dame, it means playing on television every week.

Notre Dame has earned this luxury.

Some might say HAD earned it. This is a fair statement as the last 20 years for Notre Dame football have been mired in mediocrity. Notre Dame football and its brand have been weakened as a result.

However, tradition is earned over a long period of time.

The early part of this century was kinder to the Irish. Generations of success led to where we are now, trumping the poor recent performance.

So why move now?

I bemoaned the conference realignments over the past several years. Money and the media have created pressure to move.

Many moves haven't made sense.

Frankly, I think this lesson in "bizarro world" geography started with Penn State to the Big Ten. Shortly thereafter, Notre Dame aligned with the Big East.

Fast forward 25 years and we've now seen Miami, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Pitt leave the Big East.

Recently, the Big East picked up what pieces it could, but it became significantly weakened.

Notre Dame has weakened as well. On its own, it couldn't protect its bowl-game interests. The Irish needed a strong conference affiliation.

This is where the ACC alignment comes in.

Notre Dame maintains "modified" independence in football and has a seat at the table for decent bowl games. It moves to what will be the strongest conference for basketball and solidifies the Olympic sports schedules.

This should be a win for the Irish for now.

However, the trendline in performance needs to improve or our next conference move will be the last we hear of independence.

Brian Irwin is a 1994 graduate of Notre Dame and an occasional contributor to Voice of the Fan. He resides in Hollidaysburg.

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