Philadelphia, PA – The conference realignment trend in college sports doesn't seem to be coming to an end any time soon.
This week one of the most high-profile programs in the country shifted its allegiance, as Notre Dame bailed on the Big East for the greener pastures of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The announcement was made official Tuesday in a news conference at the end of the ACC's fall meetings at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Fitting that the Fighting Irish were welcomed in on the campus of one of the conference's premier programs.
During his comments at the press conference Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins wore an ACC pin on his right lapel that sparkled in the light of the cameras around him.
Sparkling is exactly how the ACC sees its future now with yet another major addition, along with Syracuse and Pittsburgh, to its already high profile conference.
"This is a terrific milestone in the evolution of the ACC and showcases tremendous solidarity and vision by our Council of Presidents," ACC commissioner John Swofford said.
The ACC had been rumored to be on the ropes in comparison to conferences like the SEC and Pac-12, with programs like Miami-Florida reportedly looking at a move into the Big 12, while schools like Clemson and Florida State could set their sights on the expanding SEC.
With the addition of Notre Dame, the ACC has clearly positioned itself in strong standing among those other conferences. The Fighting Irish are one of, if not the most popular and powerful college sports program in the country, with a national brand that most schools can only dream of replicating.
Notre Dame football would have been the major 'get' for the ACC in this deal but the Fighting Irish will remain independent. However with an agreement to play five ACC schools every season, perhaps Notre Dame could be at least entertaining the idea of joining a conference in football though both Swofford and Jenkins denied any future plans.
A five-game slate against ACC foes would be somewhat comparable to a normal conference schedule and could act as a sort of test drive for the Irish as a conference team.
By not bringing in Notre Dame football, the ACC is going against a long tradition of dedication to full membership among its athletic programs. According to Swofford it is a concession that needed to be made for the ACC to remain relevant in the current climate.
"We're in our 60th year in our conference and we have always been an all-in membership," Swofford said, "(However) with a changing landscape in intercollegiate athletics what was best twenty years ago isn't necessarily best in today's world."
One of the things most discussed during the press conference was the dedication to academics as well as athletics required for the Irish. Notre Dame has long been a school that holds high academic standards for its players and Jenkins praised the ACC conference for its strong national standing in the classroom.
"The ACC is composed of some of the most highly respected universities in the country, and we at Notre Dame look forward to joining them," Jenkins said.
In the 2013 U.S. News and World Report rankings of the top colleges and universities, 11 ACC schools ranked in the top 58 which was more than any other BCS conference.
For Notre Dame the positives are undeniable. While it may not have been the most obvious choice, jumping to the ACC will keep the Irish in a premier conference as the Big East continues a downward spiral, while also allowing the storied football program to remain independent.
Many believed that the Big Ten was the most logical choice for Notre Dame, especially with the five games in football, its geographic location, and the long-standing rivalries with Michigan and Michigan State. However Notre Dame also has competitive ties in the ACC. There is the 'Holy War' with Boston College as well as what could be a renewal of the Miami/Notre Dame rivalry of the late 1980s.
While the ACC and Notre Dame are certainly victors in this announcement, the Big East is once again the victim.
Just weeks after announcing a new commissioner the conference is yet again forced to deal with one of its most notable members leaving for another conference. In the last few years the Big East has lost West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh and after an agreement to bring TCU into the fold, watched the Horned Frogs choose the Big 12 instead.
"Notre Dame's departure does not change our plans," Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said via the conference's Twitter, "We remain committed to making the Big East stronger than ever before"
That will be a tough task if programs like Notre Dame continue to leave for seemingly greener pastures.
For now Notre Dame is just another in a long list of schools that have moved on to better position themselves in the ever-changing major conference landscape.
However, it once again raises an important question; when will the dust finally settle and what will major college sports look like when it does?