The Big Ten and Pac-12 are moving to conference-only models for the 2020 season, and other conferences soon could follow, including the ACC.
That has created an interesting question: What would a conference-only season mean for Notre Dame?
Notre Dame showing up to their conference-only games this season. pic.twitter.com/nt7uV4ssxn— Sporting News (@sportingnews) July 9, 2020
The Irish, of course, are an independent that doubles as one of college football's biggest brands. In 2019, 247Sports.com ranked the Irish as the fifth most-valuable program in the FBS with a value that is close to a billion dollars.
Here is a closer look at where the Irish stand if 2020 does indeed have a season.
Who is still on the Irish's schedule?
The Irish still have six games scheduled with ACC opponents as part of their agreement with the conference, and that includes a blockbuster matchup with Clemson at Notre Dame Stadium on Nov. 7.
Wake Forest, Duke, Pitt, Georgia Tech and Louisville also are on the schedule, and that would fill out most of an eight-to-10 game season if the ACC allows for that.
That ACC agreement works in favor of the conference, too. Outgoing ACC commissioner John Swofford reportedly will work with the Irish on those scheduling matters.
#ACC commissioner John Swofford has said that if league adopts an all-conference football schedule for 2020, Notre Dame likely will be in mix. Irish already have six ACC opponents on docket.— David Teel (@ByDavidTeel) July 9, 2020
That agreement, however, does not account for the other six games on the schedule.
Who is off the Irish's schedule?
The biggest loss on the schedule for the Irish is the Oct. 3 matchup with Wisconsin, which was scheduled to be played at Lambeau Field. That was arguably the second-most important game on the schedule in terms of the College Football Playoff race.
Also gone: Pac-12 rivalries with Stanford and USC. The Cardinal were supposed to come to Notre Dame on Oct. 10, and the Irish were scheduled to visit rival USC on Nov. 28. This will be the first time Notre Dame hasn't played USC since World War II.
Notre Dame also has an SEC opponent on the schedule in Arkansas; a Sept. 12 game that could get canceled when the SEC makes its decision on whether to go to a conference-only model.
The remaining schedule features a matchup with Navy — which was moved to Annapolis from Dublin, Ireland — and that game remains in question. Notre Dame would have to find options for those six games. The Irish and Midshipmen have played every year since 1927.
The only other game on the schedule is a home game with Western Michigan — the second Group of 5 team on the schedule.
What alternatives do the Irish have?
Notre Dame could leverage its independent status to get other games. Irish Breakdown points out that the Irish have a promised return trip to BYU, and this could be the right time to cash that in. BYU lost five games from its schedule with the Pac-12's and Big Ten's announcements.
Other independent teams include Liberty, Army, UMass, New Mexico State and UConn. That pool of opponents would not help the Irish's strength of schedule, but in the current landscape any games are possible.
There are other radical alternatives — including temporary membership in a conference — but those would be extreme measures the Irish would be unlikely to take given their stance on remaining independent through the College Football Playoff era.
The other factor to consider is the partnership with NBC. Notre Dame had seven games scheduled on the network. The matchups with Wisconsin and Stanford are gone, and Arkansas might be, depending on the SEC's decision. The games against Western Michigan, Duke, Clemson and Louisville are still there. That network is not going to want to lose that money if there is a college football season.
The Irish, like the rest of the Power 5, remain in limbo because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If there is a season, it's still safe to assume that Notre Dame would be part of it.