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Notre Dame A.D.: Priority remains football independence

Notre Dame's arranged marriage this college football season to the Atlantic Coast Conference hardly could have gone any better for either party.

The No. 2-ranked Fighting Irish are headed to the league's championship game Dec. 19 in Charlotte against Clemson, in a rematch of perhaps college football's greatest game this season and the one that attracted the most viewers, an average of almost 9.5 million and as many as 14 million, as Notre Dame prevailed, 47-40, in double-overtime.

However, in a recent live chat with the Notre Dame community, Irish athletics director Jack Swarbrick made clear this COVID-19, pandemic-induced marriage was not entered into with a long-term goal.

“It has been great for both parties, which is the essence of the agreement, right?,” Swarbrick asked. “It's what we hoped. The Duke game was actually a huge rating as well. Duke and Boston College were both 5-million person ratings. The Clemson game averaged (almost) 10 and peaked at 15. It will be the most-watched game in college football this year other than the semifinals. There's no game on the docket that's going to exceed that in the regular season. It's worked very well for us.

“We play these games, we have football, we play at the level we play at because we want to promote Notre Dame. I think we would because of the quality of the team had really good numbers regardless. We were scheduled to play Clemson regardless of whether we joined the conference this year. But the conference affiliation has helped, there's no doubt about it.

“We've enjoyed it, it's been great, but our priority remains football independence.”

Swarbrick then pointed to Notre Dame's intersectional rivalries and national appeal �� not to mention that the Irish have played games abroad and are set to again do so in the near future.

“While we never stop on an annual basis evaluating that (football independence) and thinking about what's best for our student-athletes and the university, I still believe that the opportunity to play in New York regularly, the opportunity to play on the West Coast every year. No school has ever played in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York in the same year; we've now done it nine times.

“That's what independence gives us, it gives us that opportunity. We remain committed to it, but we'll continue to evaluate it.”

Last month Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said it was time that the ACC issued Notre Dame a mandate to be either all-in or all-out of the conference.