When Irish cash registers are ringing

Published 4:50 pm Sunday, September 20, 2015

When the Atlantic Coast Conference admitted Notre Dame as a league member back in 2013 in every sport except football I felt this was a chance for the southern league to leave a great athletic footprint right in the heart of the Midwest.

Either that, or it was some sort of odd revenge-slash-balancing act aimed at the Big-10 for stealing – yes, stealing! – away charter conference member, Maryland.

That last remark is because I always believed the Turtles went back in their shells on the ACC as strictly a “money grab” because of all that Big-10 Network cash.  You Terps should have budgeted your athletic department better; like getting your coaches out on the stoop in the off-season raising cash from boosters like all the other schools do.

But back to the Irish, whose admission to the ACC I saw in the same begrudging light I once cast on the admission of FloridaState, and later Virginia Tech and Miami.  Yes, football is the cash-cow that drives intercollegiate athletics. That thus left me asking: has there ever been a school whose success was more dependent on football than Notre Dame?

They had one of the earliest radio contracts ever for their games, going back to the 1920’s. They also had the names of legend: Knute Rockne, Grantland Rice, the “Four Horsemen”; they were featured in movies: “Knute Rockne, All American” (with Ronald Reagan playing George Gipp) and, 53 years later they had “Rudy.”

Yes, this is a wealthy school with a top-20 endowment (not unlike league brethren Duke and Virginia), and the leprechauns are finding more pots of gold at the end of the rainbow with their own exclusive TV deal.

Yes, the Irish get preferential treatment in the ACC bowl order despite not playing a full league schedule, and they reap that benefit despite having had only one legitimately successful football season in the past eight years; but that was also before they joined the conference.

But in a world dominated by the SEC, where a Big-10 school is the defending national champion – with a good shot at repeating – and some of the other leagues like the Pac-10, and the Big-12 have come on, and the AAC is frantically playing catch-up, it benefits the ACC to have the Irish around.

ACC teams automatically improve their nonconference schedule with the scheduled game against the Irish; and teams almost automatically increase their home attendance when the Blue-and-Green come to town (where else this season are you going to find people willing to shell out big bucks to see a team coming off an 8-5 season?  It’s not for NC State!)

The addition of the Irish also elevated the ACC’s postseason status, as the league’s bowl lineup grew deeper and stronger last season, and this year as many as eight or even nine conference schools could go bowling.

No one can blame ACC coaches if they’re not exactly thrilled to be making a trip to South Bend the same way no one can blame Notre Dame for taking all that comes its way.

To this day, Notre Dame football is a unique marketing tool, whether it’s trying to entice some new faculty member or they want to land a sizable donation.

This past Saturday, Georgia Tech headed to South Bend, and still ahead there are Irish games with Clemson, Pitt, Wake Forest, and even Boston College has a game scheduled in, of all places, the baseball Boston Red Sox home, Fenway Park!

But lest we forget, you’ve got a lot of Notre Dame fans in Beantown.  They wouldn’t care if they played it in Boston Harbor.

You may not like them being here, ACC purists, but that pot of gold for this league gets bigger and bigger and sweeter and sweeter with every snap.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer with Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.