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Notre Dame's Other Sports: What Do They Mean For The ACC, Part 1

SOUTH BEND IN - SEPTEMBER 04: The "Golden Dome" is seen on the campus of Notre Dame University. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
SOUTH BEND IN - SEPTEMBER 04: The "Golden Dome" is seen on the campus of Notre Dame University. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The college sports world is buzzing with the news of the Atlantic Coast Conference's acceptance of The University of Notre Dame as a member institution for all sports except for football, fencing and ice hockey. The former is excluded because, well, they're Notre Dame and they do what they want. The latter two are excluded because the ACC doesn't sponsor them. I like the latter reasoning a lot better.

So what does this mean for the ACC in all of these different sports? Are we adding an also-ran just because of the name of the school? Or are we adding competitors? I decided to take a quick look by focusing on two aspects: How does Notre Dame's program in the last few years stack up nationally or at least to the rest of the ACC; and how does Notre Dame's addition impact the number of teams the ACC is fielding in each sport. The second part may not mean much to some people, but given the complaints about unbalanced schedules and divisions versus no divisions and whatnot, I thought it was worth taking a look at.

Men's Lacrosse

This is an easy one. Notre Dame is a program that has risen to being a team that is competitive at the top every year. They knocked Virginia out of the NCAA Tournament in 2012 (I was there... not fun). In the last three seasons they have made it to the championship game (2010), the quarterfinals (2011) and the final four (2012). You have to assume that competing in the ACC will help them continue that rise. So they're definitely adding quality.

Then again, they're also adding quantity and that's almost as important. With the inclusion of Notre Dame and Syracuse (who joins next year), the ACC will have six men's lacrosse programs. That makes them eligible for an automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament (not that we need it) and it means we can have a real tournament, not just a two-day rehash of the previous two weeks' games.

Trivia: Who is Notre Dame's head coach? Kevin Corrigan, who played at UVA back in the '80s. His father was also a coach at Virginia and the commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Verdict: Very positive addition

Click past the jump for my take on women's lacrosse, baseball, soccer, rowing and volleyball. A little later on I'll have information on basketball, golf, softball, tennis, cross country and track and field.

Women's Lacrosse

ACC Women's lacrosse was in a different boat than the men's side of things when it comes to numbers. The ladies were already at six squads before the inclusion of Syracuse (Boston College and Virginia Tech play for the women, but not the men). So this means that with the Orange and the Irish, women's lacrosse is at eight schools and is able to have a full three-round tournament (sans byes).

On the talent side, the women's squad isn't where the men's is. They've made it to the NCAA tournament four times since 2008, but have not advanced past the second round any of those years. Regardless, that's better than the bottom of the current ACC, so it is still an upgrade in talent in that regard.

Verdict: Positive addition


Raise your hand if you know at which school Brian O'Connor was an assistant before taking over the reigns at Virginia? That's right. Notre Dame. He coached with then-head coach Paul Mainieri (now at LSU) from 1995-2001. The ties, they are endless.

Notre Dame has won the Big East regular season title six times in the last fifteen years and the conference championship five times during that same span. They made the NCAA tournament eight straight years from ''99 through '06, but they haven't been back since.

Numbers-wise, Syracuse doesn't have a team, but Pittsburgh does. So Notre Dame is the second team we're adding, bringing us to 14 squads. So it's good that we're adding the Irish to keep things balanced.

Verdict: Positive addition

Men's Soccer

Notre Dame is ranked #13 in the current polls, but their track record the last few years hasn't been all that great. They've made it to the NCAA tournament three times from 2008-2010, but failed to advance past the second round in any of those years. I guess this falls under the same category as women's soccer above where they're not bringing up the top end of the league, but they're definitely better than some folks we already have in the league.

Syracuse and Pittsburgh both have soccer teams. So Notre Dame is going to make us have an odd number of teams, right? Nope. We already have an odd number of teams with only 9 of the current twelve schools fielding a squad (Miami, Florida State and Georgia Tech are missing). So with Notre Dame, you're at twelve teams, which makes for a nice even number, a better tournament structure and the possibility of splitting into divisions if need be.

Verdict: Positive addition

Women's Soccer

This is nearly an elite program that we're bringing into the ACC. Notre Dame has won three NCAA national championships since 1995. Their most recent was in 2010. They stumbled last year, and they're not ranked this year. But they have a solid history as a program and I am sure they'll be back up near the top soon.

The numbers game in this sport is much like it is with the men. Georgia Tech doesn't have a squad, so we're sitting at 11 teams right now. Syracuse and Pittsburgh both bring teams, so Notre Dame makes us even again at 14 teams total. Once again, it's a nice even number, though a slight awkward tournament structure. Divisions are a possibility, though.

Verdict: Very positive addition


The Notre Dame rowing squad is not an elite program, but they're not terrible either. They've made the NCAA tournament five times since 2002, but their best finish was 11th back in 2004. They've finished 12th (twice), 15th and 16th the other times.

Then again, Virginia is the only ACC squad to finish ahead of them in any of those years (at least, the years for which I can get the full listings). So they're not on Virginia's level. But if maybe they're on Clemson's level (the only other team to win an ACC rowing championship aside from UVA), they can push us on occasion and make sure we stay elite.

Syracuse has a rowing team, so we're going from six squads to eight. That sounds good, but doesn't really matter in this sport since you compete against everyone at once (or in heats). More competition is better, though.

Verdict: Positive addition


The official UVA Volleyball twitter account this morning quoted Coach Hohenshelt as saying "With @FightingIrish joining @theACC along with Pitt and Syracuse, the standard will be set very high." None of the three squads made the NCAA tournament last year (Notre Dame's last appearance in the NCAA tournament was in 2009) and none of them are ranked this year. But given that only one ACC squad is ranked right now, that can't really be a negative for them, now can it?

Notre Dame is 5-4 this season so far, but three of their four losses were to teams ranked in the top FIVE nationally. The fourth loss? To #17 San Diego. Kind of hard for me to tell how good they are this year. But given that the ACC isn't that good and we're looking to bring up the bottom end of the conference, adding a program like Notre Dame somewhere in the top half will definitely help.

We finally have a situation where Notre Dame joining makes the numbers worse. We already had all twelve programs competing around the net and both Pitt and Syracuse also bring squads. So that puts us at fifteen. Luckily, there's no conference tournament, so it doesn't screw that up. Given how short the schedule is, though, I do wonder if they're going to have to split into divisions or do uneven scheduling now that they're at fifteen. That would make the odd number a little annoying, but not terrible.

Verdict: Positive addition


Alright, so that's seven sports and seven positive (at least) additions. Some of them are homeruns (like I think Lacrosse is), others not-so-much. But none of these are negative additions. I'll be back later with Part 2 where I examine the rest of the sports the Irish are bringing to the table.