- - Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — In his first year as athletic director at Notre Dame four years ago, Jack Swarbrick visited Chapel Hill, N.C., for the first time. Walking through the University of North Carolina campus before a Tar Heels football game against the Fighting Irish, Swarbrick vividly remembers the satisfaction he felt in being warmly welcomed.

As he stood on the podium at UNC’s Kenan Stadium on Wednesday, announcing Notre Dame’s decision to leave the Big East and join the Atlantic Coast Conference, Swarbrick again experienced that feeling.

“It’s that welcoming nature, it’s that same approach towards athletics and its role in the university, that makes us so pleased to be here today,” he said.

In a statement released just before 10 a.m. Wednesday, the ACC announced that its Council of Presidents had unanimously voted to accept Notre Dame as its 15th member in all conference-sponsored sports except football.

Until now, the league, which was formed 60 years ago, has been steadfast in its plan to consist only of full members. But ACC commissioner John Swofford said that a “changing landscape” in college athletics demands flexibility.

“We have always been into all-in, if you will, membership,” Swofford said. “What was best 20 years ago isn’t necessarily best in today’s world.”

The ACC designates 80 percent of its television revenue to football and 20 percent to basketball. Therefore, Notre Dame will receive one-fifteenth of 20 percent of the revenue for its participation in basketball. Notre Dame will maintain its TV contract with NBC and benefit from that revenue independently.

Notre Dame will play five football games against ACC opponents each season, with the Fighting Irish rotating hosting three of those games one year and two the next.

“Personally, I wish they were all in for football,” Maryland football coach Randy Edsall said. “There is still so much information [still to learn]. For the overall good of the league, it is a quality institution and a quality program.”

Despite the complications involved with a partial membership, Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins stands by the institution’s commitment to the ACC.

“I just want to say emphatically and clearly, we’re all in,” he said.

Swofford said the timetable for when the switch becomes official depends on Notre Dame’s commitment to the Big East. Swarbrick said the 2015-16 season likely will be the target, but discussions will be made with Big East officials about transitioning sooner.

Notre Dame must pay the Big East a $5 million exit fee, although Pittsburgh and Syracuse recently paid more in order to be able to join the ACC earlier than the contract allows.

Swofford said it would be “illogical” to add more teams to the conference, as the football divisions will be split evenly when Pitt and Syracuse join in 2013. There are no divisions in basketball.

Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey was all smiles as he watched the news conference from the corner of the room. A graduate of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville and a former assistant under Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, Brey is familiar with ACC country.

“I’ve had mixed emotions, because we’ve built a heck of an identity with our basketball program in the Big East,” he said. “But certainly with my roots in this league, growing up in the shadow of the University of Maryland and eight years over at Duke, I’m really excited about the new challenge for our basketball program.”

Brey said he thinks the move will help Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts in the Washington area. There was discussion of Notre Dame moving to the Big 12, and Brey resisted the idea. He’s intent on keeping his roots in the East.

“I said, ‘Jack, we can’t just lose the East,’” he said. “The East is important to our school and especially our basketball program. I’m really thrilled we stay in the East, and we stay in the East with a really neat product to be unveiled.”

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