ACC Notes: The League’s Terrible Deal with Notre Dame

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Will the ACC deal with Notre Dame come back to bite the conference? Is Clemson actually a year away? Can Louisville figure it out during a bye week? Each week in this space we’ll take a look around the Atlantic Coast Conference and examine the most important happenings.

A RAW DEAL?: Back in 2012, when Notre Dame joined the ACC in most sports and made a scheduling agreement to guarantee five football games a season against ACC opponents, people around the league all toed the company line. At least publicly.

But privately there were ACC coaches in football and other sports wondering if it was going to pay off for full members. The Fighting Irish got the benefit of joining the league for sports such as basketball and lacrosse, without kicking in an equal share of football revenue.

Football coaches were not excited about opening the door even further for Notre Dame to recruit the Mid-Atlantic and coaches in other sports were concerned Notre Dame’s ability to jump ACC schools in the bowl pecking order, which could affect their own budgets.

Now, the ACC could face the ultimate example of the deal’s lopsidedness if Notre Dame robs the league of a College Football Playoff berth. Saturday, the Irish topped North Carolina State to move squarely into playoff mix, and likely knocked the Wolfpack out of final four consideration.

But NC State is still firmly in the running for the ACC championship, and could likely get to the conference championship game if it beats Clemson. The Irish have an opportunity to put a dent in Miami’s playoff hopes when they play in two weeks and a one-loss Notre Dame would probably have a stronger case for inclusion than a one-loss Clemson or Virginia Tech.

That would all be fine if the Irish was a full dues-paying ACC member, but at this point the ACC is working on moving money from its long-time members to a program that thinks it is too good to join them.

TIGER CUBS: Clemson’s national title hopes haven’t been extinguished this season, but the loss at Syracuse a couple weeks ago certainly threw some water on the fire.

But Clemson fans shouldn’t get too bummed out if the Tigers don’t get into the college football playoff this season. Dabo Swinney’s best shot at winning a second national title might be a year away.

The emergence of freshman running back Travis Etienne, the Tigers leading rusher with 489 yards, only highlights that this is actually a pretty young Clemson squad. Depending on early entry into the NFL Draft, the Tigers could have as many as 10 starters back on offense next season and there are only three seniors on the entire defensive two-deep.

If the Tigers run the table and get back to the playoff, is it too early to start talking about a dynasty for Swinney and Clemson? Maybe not.

KEY GAME: Louisville is a mess. The basketball program is on probation and under FBI investigation. The school will have to look for a new basketball coach and athletic director while millions of dollars are mysteriously missing from university coffers.

The football team was supposed to be a bright spot with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson back, but the Cards have struggled to a 5-4 record and are just 2-4 in the ACC after losing three of their past four.

Louisville has a bye week to get things figured out, and it will want to do it fast. The Cardinals face Virginia and Syracuse next and then will likely be underdogs to close out the regular season at rival Kentucky.

The Nov. 11 matchup against Virginia is huge for both teams. The Cavs have lost two in a row after a 5-1 start and Louisville might be their best shot at getting the sixth victory to lock up their first bowl game since 2011. Virginia took a much better Louisville team to the wire last year in Charlottesville.

 

Shane Mettlen is a veteran journalist who lives in Virginia and also writes for The ACC Sports Journal. Follow him on Twitter @ShaneMettlen