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The Latest On Realignment

Things are a ways away from settling down again and when they do, nothing will ever be the same

Pittsburgh v Xavier
GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 19: The ACC logo on the floor before the second round of the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament game between the Xavier Musketeers and the Pittsburgh Panthers at Greensboro Coliseum on March 19, 2023 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Realignment news continues to flow so here’s some of the latest: first, the Big 12 says it’s done for the moment anyway, perhaps preferring to let their dinner settle, and not looking for anyone new just now. The Big Ten prefers to have schools that are more academically oriented and may pause at least in the short term. And there’s no indication that the SEC would take Florida State, so FSU’s desire to leave the ACC for a bigger paycheck would be difficult with all three of those conferences, and that’s assuming they can get out of the ACC’s media rights deal in the first place.

Stanford and SMU, both trying to find a new home, have found surprising champions: for Stanford, it’s former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice and for SMU, it’s her former boss and former president George Bush. Both have apparently contacted the ACC on behalf of those schools.

Meanwhile, as noted before, Notre Dame has pushed the ACC to take Stanford and Cal, something the ACC has not yet gone for, despite Rice’s efforts (same for SMU).

In this article, David Teel suggests that, when it comes to a football-oriented expansion, the ACC should ignore an independent Notre Dame. It’s hard to argue.

The Irish are happy to compete in the ACC, other than football, in which they remain independent, thanks largely to their lucrative deal with NBC.

That contract runs through 2025 and there’s no indication it won’t be renewed. However, we’ll note a couple of things here.

First, broadly speaking, the media is in massive flux. The Internet is responsible for a lot of this, not least of all with newspapers, but that’s not all. Amazon, YouTube and AppleTV have all begun to move into sports, which is certainly going to change things. However, the current strikes by writers and actors, if they go on long enough, will eventually affect the amount of content available and, subsequently, revenue. And on top of all that, Disney isn’t the juggernaut it once was.

In other words, Notre Dame’s next deal with NBC might not be for as much as they want.

Or maybe it will be for more: current Irish AD Jack Swarbrick will be replaced by Notre Dame grad and, until recently, NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua. At NBC, Bevacqua helped secure a deal with the Big Ten which Swarbrick says will “compliment” Notre Dame’s deal.

We don’t know what any of that means exactly, but Bevacqua, who calls this job “an unbelievable honor,” is probably a great choice for Notre Dame. Certainly he knows more about NBC’s business dealings than anyone else possibly could.

By the way, here’s what he said when he took the job: “This is an unbelievable honor for me and a dream come true. With the exception of my family, nothing means more to me than the University of Notre Dame. As a Notre Dame alum, I have a keen understanding and deep appreciation of the lifetime, transformational benefit our student-athletes receive in a Notre Dame education, one that is unique and unlike any other institution in the world.”

Geographically, the Big Ten has always made more sense for Notre Dame, but when the Irish tried to join the conference several times, starting over 100 years ago, anti-Catholic sentiment, apparently led by Michigan, put a stop to that.

If you wonder why the Irish are so stubborn about staying independent, well, there are reasons.

It’s hard to know where any of this is going to go. We know that Duke would like to stay in the ACC (and that’s what we’d prefer too) or, if that is no longer possible, then to be in a power conference somewhere else.

We’re sure everyone has done their due diligence and so on, but we really haven’t heard this idea mentioned: what about the Big East?

The big negative would obviously be the functional end of Duke football and Duke has a brilliant, if distant football history. And David Cutcliffe and Mike Elko have done much to breathe life into a program that was beyond life support: at one point, Duke actually argued that it should be allowed to cancel a game with Louisville because any substitute D-1 team would be a better program - and the judge agreed.

But the Big East has re-emerged as a great basketball league and at the end of the day, basketball is Duke’s crown jewel. It would also allow Duke to escape the endless aftershocks of realignment.

We’d vastly prefer the ACC, but clearly there are no guarantees of anything today.

One last note on realignment: it’s a shame that the PAC-12 has fallen apart. But they made the mistake of hiring Larry Scott and the damage from that decision is worse than most people know. Remember how he crowed about building the PAC-12 network from the ground up? Scott’s stupidity and arrogance cost the conference dearly.