One year ago Jack Swarbrick stood outside the Irish locker room underneath Notre Dame Stadium trying to make sense of the shock departures of Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East. Notre Dame's athletics director admitted he hadn't seen the Atlantic Coast Conference defections coming.
Now, almost exactly a year later, Notre Dame will follow the leads of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, uprooting the school's Olympic sports from the beleaguered Big East for the more stable ACC.
Notre Dame becomes the league's 15th member, but will remain independent in football. The Irish hockey program will join Hockey East starting next season.
"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 Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick. "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 ACC will hold a press conference to formally announce the move at 12:30 today in Chapel Hill, N.C. Swarbrick will speak to the media in South Bend around 6 p.m.
Notre Dame has agreed to commit to five football games against ACC opponents annually, which not only guarantees the University a competitive schedule inventory, but also maintains many of the program's historical rivals.
If Pittsburgh is counted as an ACC program already, Notre Dame will play four ACC opponents this season. The Irish played five last year, which includes Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Notre Dame's departure date for the ACC is unclear, although the Chicago Tribune reported on Wednesday that the school wants to be out of the Big East by the 2013-14 season. That would make this season the final one for the Irish in the league it joined in 1995.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse will be completing their final seasons in the Big East this year after negotiating down the league's 27-month exit clause and paying multi-million dollar fines.
It appears Notre Dame would like to follow the same course, joining the league on the same timeframe.
The move would appear to lock Notre Dame into the ACC for the long haul as the conference's Council of Presidents voted to increase the exit fee to three times the annual operating budget. That would mean to an exit fee of over $50 million, according to the league.
"The ACC is composed of some of the most highly respected universities in the country, and we at Notre Dame look forward to joining them," said Notre Dame President, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. "With a mix of institutions - many of which are also private, similar to Notre Dame in size, and committed to excellence in research and undergraduate education - the ACC is an exceptionally good fit for us academically, as well as athletically."
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