Less schedule flexibility may not be a bad thing for Irish

Less schedule flexibility may not be a bad thing for Irish
May 28, 2014, 12:00 pm
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Earlier this month, Brian Kelly talked about how the school's ACC agreement took away some of Notre Dame's scheduling flexibility, leading to the axing of Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue as regular opponents on future schedules.

Kelly didn't necessarily lament the lack of scheduling flexibility, but he did say the ACC agreement put Notre Dame in a "difficult situation" in having to get those Big Ten teams off future schedules. Notre Dame is still independent, but has eight games locked in every year -- just as ACC and SEC teams do with their respective conference schedules.

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But that's hardly a bad thing, even if it means playing fewer Big Ten opponents. Consider the reach Notre Dame's schedule gives the program: An away game every year in California (either Stanford or USC), and over the next three years road games in Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, New York/New Jersey, Texas, South Carolina and Virginia.

Not only does that give Notre Dame coast-to-coast recruiting reach, it puts them in nearly every major media market across the country. Add a series with Georgia, which UGA athletic director Greg McGarity is hopeful will happen and Notre Dame will hit the South's largest media market and play in the state that produced Stephon Tuitt and T.J. Jones.

[MORE: Brian Kelly not overwhelmed by Notre Dame balancing act]

That national presence doesn't grow if Notre Dame keeps Michigan, Michigan State and/or Purdue as permanent fixtures. Notre Dame has a strong presence in the Midwest with or without Big Ten teams on its schedule -- Nate Silver estimated in 2011 that there are 244,684 Irish fans in Chicago while solid fan bases exist in Indianapolis, St. Louis and Detroit, too.

The dynamics of college football have changed, and the ACC agreement is a way for Notre Dame to adapt. The national exposure is a boon for TV audiences and recruiting efforts, both of which are critical to keeping a program healthy.

Notre Dame may not have much more room to grow in the Midwest. Instead, it's turning to the regions that produced the last 11 BCS champions: Texas, the Pacific coast, the South and the Atlantic coast.