ACC commissioner John Swofford said Friday the scheduling arrangement with Notre Dame for the 2020 football season is a win-win for both the Irish and the league, but he added that it is only a temporary deal.
On Wednesday, the ACC announced a 10-plus-1 scheduling model in which Notre Dame, an FBS independent, will play a full league schedule for the first time in its history and be eligible for the ACC championship game. In his first comments since the schedule was announced, Swofford told Packer & Durham on the ACC Network that he and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick started discussing the possibility that the Irish would play a full ACC schedule about a month ago.
Notre Dame already had a scheduling partnership with the ACC that facilitated the talks and is an ACC member in all other sports except men’s hockey.
“This simply — as it has been with other aspects of the ACC-Notre Dame relationship — is a win-win,” Swofford said. “We’re in a difficult situation, all of us in this country and in sports, and in the ACC we’re trying to find the best path. We’ve said over and over again, we’re in it together. It was the best thing for the ACC, it was the best thing for Notre Dame, and that makes it pretty easy when you know that.
“It was not hard for us to come to an agreement on that in terms of the television money. It was not hard for us to come to an agreement that if they were coming in, they were bringing their NBC games, they would play the same number of games as everybody else in the league, then they would be eligible to play in the ACC football championship game as well as the Orange Bowl, if they turned out to be our representative in the Orange Bowl … and obviously the College Football Playoff.”
Swarbrick told ESPN.com on Thursday that the partnership is a result of the unusual circumstances brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and “unrelated to Notre Dame’s long-term assessment of independence.” Swofford reiterated that as well, saying, “It’s a one-off for this year in these particular circumstances.”
Swofford said the league decided to announce its scheduling model on Wednesday because the school presidents and chancellors felt ready to make a decision. That model includes 10 conference games plus one nonconference game, with the belief that the SEC would go in the same direction and allow the four crucial ACC/SEC rivalry games to be played.
But on Thursday, the SEC announced it would play a 10-game, conference-only schedule, thereby canceling Florida-Florida State, Clemson-South Carolina, Louisville-Kentucky and Georgia-Georgia Tech — and leading to outrage among those who lobbied and fought to keep those games on the schedule. Florida receiver Jordan Pouncey chimed in on Twitter.
We have to play teams from out of state (by plane) that are conference only games, but we can’t play a team that is not even 2 hours (by bus) up the interstate. explain.
— Jordan Pouncey (@_pouncey) July 31, 2020
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said it was a function of the timing of the schedule, which will begin on Sept. 26 in the SEC. The ACC, meanwhile, is set to begin play the weekend of Sept. 12.
“We took a different route as a conference, and we were and are very comfortable with that route, and we took a path that would have allowed those games to happen,” Swofford said. “Those rivalry games are huge in the Southeast, huge in those respective states, and really, really big nationally from that standpoint, so you hate to see those disrupted, but each conference ultimately has to do what they believe is in their best interest. My disappointment is not really a criticism of the SEC; it’s just a disappointment. Those are quality games that, from our standpoint, could have been played, but now will not be played.”
Swofford said the ACC intends to move forward with its plan to play one nonconference game in the home state of each institution, adding all schools are on track to play that additional game.