Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver has fond memories of watching Notre Dame when he was young, tuning in to reruns on TV of the Fighting Irish and running back Johnny Lattner in the early ’50s.
So when he was informed today that Notre Dame will be part of the ACC — a full member in all of the league’s sports except football, where it will be a partial member — he was ecstatic.
“There’s only one Notre Dame,” he said. “And they’re part of us right now.”
Many have criticized the ACC’s decision to allow Notre Dame to join the league on a part-time basis, keeping its football independence while agreeing to play five ACC schools per year. Weaver is not one of them.
“For us here in Blacksburg, for our fans to know that Notre Dame is going to be coming here and we’re going to be going there, I think that’s exciting,” he said. “I think it’s a win-win also because the academic institutions of the ACC and Notre Dame have so much in common. And everybody in the ACC really is trying to do the very best they can with their Olympic sports. And so I think it’s going to increase the competitive level there as well.”
Part of the agreement with Notre Dame calls for the Fighting Irish to play each ACC school in football at least once every three years. Weaver said he “absolutely” would prefer for those games to be on campus, not at a neutral site. Virginia Tech and Notre Dame have never met in football.
It could present some sticking points in future non-conference schedules. The ACC hopes to have Notre Dame enter the football rotation in the 2014-15 season. Because of the uncertainty of when Notre Dame will come onto Tech’s schedule, the Hokies will have told hold off on lining up future non-conference opponents. It’s unclear how or if this will affect Virginia Tech’s future home-and-home series with Ohio State (2014-15) and Wisconsin (2016-17).
The Notre Dame addition today was news to most coaches and administrators. Weaver had inklings that there were discussions between the ACC and Fighting Irish, but he had no idea the extent of those talks.
Hokies football coach Frank Beamer said “it’s great for the ACC and great for Notre Dame. Both of us benefit.” But he didn’t know the specifics of the deal and refrained from further comment until he got more details.
New Virginia Tech basketball coach James Johnson was on the road recruiting when he got the news.
“This strengthens the best basketball league in the country even more,” he said in a statement from the school.
It’ll also make his job tougher in upcoming years with the addition of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame — three teams that have been regulars in the national rankings in recent years.
“I think [the ACC] had a down year or two here in the last couple years, but I don’t think there’s any question that our basketball is going to be the best conference in the country,” Weaver said.
The Hokies have played the Fighting Irish four times in men’s basketball, with three matchups coming when both were members of the Big East. Virginia Tech is 1-3 against Notre Dame, having lost the three most-recent games in 2001, ’03 and ’04. It beat the Irish in the NIT title game 92-91 in overtime in 1973.
Somewhat overshadowed in Wednesday’s news was that the ACC upped its exit fee to three times the annual operating budget. For now, that figure is around $50 million. It goes into effect immediately and applies to Notre Dame too, suggesting an end to the realignment rumors every year.
“It seems to me it does in terms of the Atlantic Coast Conference,” Weaver said.