Report: ACC Mulling Schedule Model That Would Let Notre Dame Play For Conference Championship If Irish Join For 2020
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Report: ACC May Let Notre Dame Play For League Title If Irish Join For 2020

The long-held assumption is Notre Dame will be a temporary ACC member and included in any ACC conference-only schedule plan for the 2020 season. ACC commissioner John Swofford confirmed as much in May.

The structure and length of such a schedule has been less clear, but Notre Dame at least had assurances it would have a home if all other conferences on its schedule contracted their seasons and dropped the Irish.

One option reportedly on the table is even more generous to Notre Dame.

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Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly
One ACC schedule model would allow head coach Brian Kelly and his Notre Dame team to play for its league title, if the Irish want to join for the season. (Bill Panzica)

The ACC is considering a proposal that would allow Notre Dame to play for the conference title, according to a report from ESPN’s Andrea Adelson. It’s one of many possibilities being discussed. The ACC board of directors — made up of all 15 presidents and chancellors — will vote on the schedule model presented to them Wednesday.

Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reported Friday the top model is 10 conference games plus one non-conference game, with Notre Dame included in it and eligible for the league title. Notre Dame’s ability to grab the league’s Orange Bowl bid is not yet known, McMurphy said.

The plus-one aspect is rooted in the ACC and SEC’s common desire to preserve the four annual rivalry games between teams from each league: Clemson-South Carolina, Florida-Florida State, Kentucky-Louisville and Georgia-Georgia Tech. Notre Dame’s original 2020 schedule has six existing games against ACC opponents, due to its partnership with the conference.

“There has been no appetite in the ACC for a conference-only schedule, which is the route chosen by the Pac-12 and Big Ten,” Adelson wrote. “Therefore, all discussions have centered on a conference-only model with one non-conference game. That would allow the four ACC schools with end-of-season rivalry games to play them.”

Counting Notre Dame as an ACC game allows those six teams already on its schedule to still play a non-conference game in a plus-one model. The Irish already have Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville on the schedule — three of the four teams with annual SEC rivalry games.

Notre Dame lost games with Stanford, USC and Wisconsin when the Big Ten and Pac-12 went to shortened schedules. The Irish have the six ACC games plus Arkansas, Navy and Western Michigan still on the schedule. If they choose to join the ACC and its proposed model, they would need to pick one of those three as the non-conference opponent.

The American Athletic Conference (Navy) and Mid-American Conference (Western Michigan) have not announced plans for a revised schedule. AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said earlier in July he wants to keep some non-conference games.

Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick told ESPN earlier in the week he would prefer to play between eight and 10 games this season, with a delayed start. The 10-plus-one model would, of course, be 11 games. It would have a delayed start, and the championship game could be moved to as late as Dec. 19, per Adelson.

It’s also possible Swarbrick gets his wish of eight to 10 games.

“Other options have been discussed, including eight- and nine-game conference schedules plus a non-conference game,” Adelson wrote. “There also has been discussion about scrapping the division format and redoing all schedules based on region to alleviate concerns about long-distance travel.”

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