Notre Dame’s decision to become a part-time ACC member should serve as a bridge for the Irish to one day move to an all-in status.
The school obviously wants to maintain its long tradition of football independency, but that may be impossible eventually.
A byproduct of the conference expansion movement by the ACC and other leagues has been to limit Notre Dame’s football flexibility in scheduling.
As the mega-conferences move to more league games, non-conference game dates have decreased. So has the philosophy of scheduling those non-league games by many teams. The most powerful coaches and programs can insist on an easy non-league slate comprised almost entirely of cupcake opponents.
By striking a deal to play five ACC games annually, Notre Dame increases its chances of lining up decent mid-season and late-season games.
But if the expansion wave is moving to an end game of only four 18-team leagues complete with a closed-door tournament, which many people believe, Notre Dame will have no viable choice except to play football in one of those leagues. The school no longer has the clout to continue to operate as an independent if the football framework is four leagues and an eight-team postseason playoff.