Notre Dame to ACC, stays independent in football

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Notre Dame got everything it wanted and the Atlantic Coast Conference got Notre Dame.

The school announced Wednesday it would join the ACC in all the conference’s sports except football, though it will play five games annually against league programs and have access to its non-BCS bowl tie-ins. It’s unclear exactly when the Irish will leave the Big East for its non-football sports.

“I don’t think there’s out there a better situation than the situation we have,” said the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president. “The ACC has allowed us to retain a tradition (of football independence) that’s so central to our identity in football while we’re joining a conference that athletically as well as academically fits Notre Dame perfectly.”

The league, meanwhile, announced it had increased its exit fees for member schools to three times the league’s annual operation budget — which would currently come to more than $50 million. ACC commissioner John Swofford said the exit fee goes into effect immediately and would apply to Notre Dame.

Jenkins and athletic director Jack Swarbrick attended a news conference Wednesday at North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium, where the Irish played the Tar Heels in 2008 in their first visit in more than three decades. Notre Dame will likely be here far more often in the coming years; the Irish will play each ACC member at least once every three seasons.

The move will alleviate some of the challenges for a football independent of scheduling games and finding bowl openings with conference tie-ins gobbling up spots.

“Today is a great day for the University of Notre Dame and our athletics department, including the football program,” Irish football coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “Speaking strictly from a football standpoint, we have further solidified our future as an independent in college football, maintained our unique ability to schedule nationally and greatly improved our postseason bowl game options.”

For the ACC, the addition of Notre Dame was a show of stability amid constantly shifting league affiliations. The ACC — which will add Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East next year — had informal discussions with Notre Dame, as had other potential suitors for the school and its brand-name football program.

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