Reports of realignment in college athletics took over NCAA-related headlines on Monday. Multiple outlets have reported Big 12 schools Texas and Oklahoma have interest in joining the SEC.
While that has no immediate effect Notre Dame, ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips fielded a question at the 2021 ACC Kickoff media day event about the prospect of the Irish joining his conference full-time in the future.
He didn’t shoot it down.
“I think we all got a glimpse of what would be like to have Notre Dame in the conference this past fall,” Phillips said. “That was a really beautiful and beneficial relationship to both Notre Dame and the ACC. They had a chance to play a fantastic schedule. They had a chance to vie for a national championship and compete in the CFP. We have a real-life example of what that could look like.”
The reporter who asked the question, Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer, framed it by quoting Notre Dame Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick as liking the way a 12-team College Football Playoff would work in the Irish’s favor.
DeCock asked if the lessened importance of playing in a conference championship game to reach the playoff will prevent Notre Dame from giving up the football independence it has enjoyed every year the program has been in existence except for the last.
“The old kind of quip is, Notre Dame loves two things: one is being Catholic, second is independence,” Phillips said. “Sometimes those things get in reverse order. Sometimes they like independence even more than being Catholic.”
Then Phillips puts his jokes aside and issued his stance on the subject.
“They know the ACC’s interest,” Phillips said. “It’s been less than bashful. It’s been less than bashful since I’ve been here. But I also respect where they’re at. I respect where we’re at. Our concentration right now is on our 14 schools.
“Who knows where the future’s going to go. But I love the group of schools that we have. You always have to be ready to add. Notre Dame, contractually, if they were to join a conference, again structured by Commissioner (John) Swofford in 2013, would join the ACC. That’s where we’re at. Appreciate the question. We’ll see where this goes.”
Notre Dame joined the ACC in all sports expect football and hockey nearly a decade ago. The Irish’s hockey team competes in the Big 10, but the football teams seems content with continuing the tradition as built into the culture at the school as Catholicism: independence.
Or as Phillips joked, perhaps even more so than that.
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