Although reaction has been mostly positive, I've heard some Clemson fans complain about adding Notre Dame - mostly because they didn't fully join the conference. While that may be a good reason for some to root against them, it doesn't mean this wasn't one of the few things Swofford got right. Here's why:
1. Show me the money
The most compelling reason is the money. According to Forbes, the addition of Notre Dame into the conference is expected to increase the ACC's television contract by $1 million dollars per school. That pushes the television contract to about $18 million per school which puts the ACC just barely behind the Big 12. NBC just extended their television contract with Notre Dame, which pays $15 million per season, through the 2025 season.
With their new TV deal, Notre Dame won't be surrendering football independence anytime soon, but as a stipulation of the current arrangement they agreed that if they for some reason end up joining a conference it will be the ACC.
The bottom line here is, while they're not what they used to be, they're still a great brand to be associated with, and if they're making us money, we should be pretty happy with them.
2. The Irish saved us from a ninth conference game
The powers that be in the Piedmont Triad and the Research Triangle were intent on sticking us with a nine game schedule. This was agreed upon and official enough that we cancelled a scheduled game with Kent State to accommodate a ninth ACC team on the schedule. When Notre Dame join, this got shelved, which is why we played two FCS opponents (SC State and the Citadel) last season.
Somehow, this got started up again this past offseason, but Clemson and FSU pushed against it, and it finally died. I wrote a bit about this issue and how horrible it would be for the ACC programs with SEC rivals (Clemson, FSU, GT, Louisville) and was relieved when the debate was finally put to rest. The ACC instead stuck with the eight game schedule, but added a requirement (which won't affect Clemson) that each team must play at least one team from another "Big Five" conference, thus boosting the conference's inventory of games without compromising flexibility and tradition (who wants to see Clemson v. Pitt when you could see Clemson v. Georgia?).
3. Winnable and intriguing matchup
Notre Dame is certainly still a good program with a talented team, but I think most Clemson fans would feel fairly confident that Clemson could hold their own on the road and win in Death Valley. With the current arrangement, Clemson would be nationally televised on NBC for a game in South Bend and logic would dictate that a matchup in the Valley would be a major ESPN showcase. There is a banner in the stadium commemorating our win over Notre Dame (Clemson is 1-1 vs. ND). Hosting Notre Dame is a big deal. Make no mistake, it may not be as great as our rivalry game with UGA, but getting the Irish in town will be quite an event in 2015 (10/3/2015).
4. Bowl Lineup
There is a fair concern that Notre Dame will be selected over more deserving ACC members come bowl selection time. The one-win rule prohibits bowls from selecting Notre Dame or any ACC team over another ACC member with more than one additional win. For example, they couldn't take an 8-4 ND over a 10-2 Clemson, but they could take a 8-4 ND over a 9-3 Clemson--and this will probably happen. Viewing that action in isolation, though, doesn't make sense. We must also consider the impact they have on our bowl lineup.
Back when the Gator Bowl dropped the Big East, it was in part because the Big East didn't like being involved in a hybrid agreement where their teams could be passed over for Notre Dame. Little did they know that these hybrid agreements are actually a great way to get some variety in the bowl. We can expect more of this in the future (look at what the ACC/B1G are doing with the Music City and Gator Bowls now). Having Notre Dame as part of the Big East bowl lineup actually made them more attractive to the better bowls.
With the start of the CFB playoff, the ACC no longer has affiliation with the Chick-Fil-a Peach Bowl (Peach is back in the name). It is now one of the six major bowls and will rotate through being part of the playoff system. Losing conference affiliation with the Chick-Fil-a Peach Bowl is a little bit of a bummer, but in years when the Orange Bowl is part of the playoff and the ACC Champion is outside of the top four, it'll still work out to be a de facto ACC bowl.
How much you credit Notre Dame is somewhat subjective, but the ACC was able to salvage a decent bowl lineup despite the disappointing loss of the CFA Peach Bowl. First, when Notre Dame does not qualify for the Discover Orange Bowl, the Capital One Bowl - South Carolina's grandest championship to date - enters the ACC lineup. (Note: Notre Dame's Orange Bowl tie-in is separate from the ACC's so they cannot take an ACC's team spot there, rather they would face an ACC team). The Capital One along with the Russell Athletic Bowl (both of which branch out of the Citrus and Tangerine Bowls in a convoluted way) give the ACC their notable non-major bowls.
Additionally, one of the bowls Clemson has been to more than any other, the Gator Bowl, rejoined the ACC bowl lineup in a hybrid format where they will select an ACC school three times every six years, and a B1G in the other years, to face an SEC team annually. Again, how much credit you grant Notre Dame for Clemson's improved lineup (sans CFA Peach Bowl) is somewhat subjective, but it looks to me like they delivered the Capital One Bowl and helped bring back the Gator.
So you may hate them, and that's just more reason to watch, but at least you can feel good about having them in our conference. The SB Nation site for Notre Dame is One Foot Down, so feel free to check them out. Hopefully we'll be in touch with them before future games and will get to have some nice back and forth. Obviously, the timing of this post is a bit random, but I wanted to have an excuse to ask our readers to vote in the poll below. It would be appreciated. Football is growing near people. Get excited!