The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team will join the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for the 2020 season, the South Bend Tribune’s NDInsider reported. The university’s gridiron team has historically competed as independent where it was free to select a schedule spanning opponents from multiple different conferences.
This means for the first time in the team’s 133-year history, the Fighting Irish will be eligible to compete for a conference championship. Looking ahead even further, Notre Dame could potentially find itself a participant in the Orange Bowl, which traditionally involves the ACC champion unless they are one of the four top seeds in the College Football Playoffs.
Notre Dame’s Athletic Director, Jack Swarbrick, said he was excited about the opportunities that this move will grant his program, and is eager to release their full schedule soon.
While the dates are yet to be announced, the Fighting Irish’s opponents have been set. They will welcome Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Louisville and Syracuse to Notre Dame Stadium while hitting the road to take on Boston College, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest.
The school will also play two non-conference games as well, although the ACC has enacted guidelines for doing so. These include requiring that the matchups be played within the home state of the ACC school and that the opposing team must meet health protocol based on the discretion of the conference.
This creates uncertainty surrounding Notre Dame’s annual tradition of taking on the Navy Midshipmen. The two schools were originally set to square off on August 29 in Dublin, Ireland, but were forced to move the game back to Maryland due to the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has already disrupted college football by forcing schools to adjust workout and practice routines.
Additionally, Arkansas and Western Michigan are scheduled to visit South Bend on September 12 and 19 respectively, giving the Irish two options already in place for their non-conference matchups. As the NDInsider noted, Notre Dame could also in theory do away all three of these previously scheduled games and instead opt to strike a deal with different athletic programs altogether.
However, the schedule shakes out, joining the ACC presents a new challenge for head coach Brian Kelly and his players. While the program has been lambasted in the past for competing as independent with critics saying it allows them to choose a favorable schedule for themselves, The Athletic’s Pete Sampson tweeted that it is “a little weird Notre Dame’s regular season schedule got easier by joining a conference, no?”
The Irish will be looking to build on their impressive 2019 campaign, which saw them go 12-1 in regular season play before falling to Clemson in the Cotton Bowl.