DISCLAIMER: The only way I can see this happening is if Notre Dame gets snubbed from the College Football Playoff again this year. Also, while I am also a huge supporter of this movement (since that would mean UCF would make it), it would spell the disaster of Notre Dame’s independent status.
Basketball and academics are not being taken into account. But here is why (football wise) it should happen…
A huge issue with the”independent” status now is that your schedule sucks. Outside of beating Michigan, Northwestern, and Syracuse, Notre Dame is now struggling to claim that USC and Stanford are both good wins (which they are not). While yes, they may have an easier time trying to justify that over anyone that have played TCU or Florida State are, it is still a mountain that is being unnecessarily climbed.
Another issue is that geography is getting kind of dicey as it is right now with the ACC. Notre Dame going to the ACC greatly increases a weak football conference. Yes, the cream of the crop is Clemson, but who is second best? It’s not a good sign when the argument is between Boston College and Syracuse, and Florida State and Miami (FL) are fighting it out for dead last with Louisville. The Big Ten is a much better football conference historically and presently across the whole of the conference. While Notre Dame may get a weaker conference in the ACC, they would also get the weaker one in the Big Ten. You may claim this might equal a wash, but playing Wisconsin and Iowa is definitely better than playing Syracuse and Boston College every year. Throw in the fact you still rotate between OSU, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State? That’s a lot stronger strength of schedule in conference than playing Clemson once every 5-7 years.
Recruiting wise is where Notre Dame should begin to see the light. If you look at a religious demographic map of the United States, a majority of Catholics are (unsurprisingly) in the Midwest. Allying yourself with the more Christian states that the ACC associates itself with, and your recruiting base kind of slips from under you. Yes the hardcores will still enroll, but keeping the moderates in ties into a more grounded approach. Every coach knows recruiting wise to first secure your state, then to control surrounding areas, then to poach from talent rich areas. Right now, Notre Dame is making a killing off recruiting from the Catholics and areas like Michigan, Ohio, and Chicago/Illinois. Those are prime Big Ten territories. Switching to the ACC may net you places like Florida and some of the other coastal states, but loses the base that the Big Ten states provide. Might be worth considering.
However, the main reason should be for the money. As I have said multiple times, the Big Ten Network is independent from ESPN and any other affiliate. While this may seem bad since (in my opinion) the national media favors ESPN-affiliated conferences (i.e. – SEC, ACC, PAC-12), it is not bad for the coffers. Northwestern and Purdue just updated their athletic facilities for their schools, with Northwestern spending about one billion on theirs. These are schools not known for their athletic prowess, yet they are now ranked in the top 5 in nicest facilities in the country. In fact, both these schools were two of the worst teams in the Big Ten (football wise) 6-7 years ago. Now they are top two in the Big Ten West. The Big Ten Network (since it is independent) enjoys not having to pay what I like to call the “pimp cut” to ESPN. Since the Big Ten is the sole beneficiary of their network, all the money goes directly to the schools, and doesn’t pass through some third party that has made MANY questionable business decisions in the past. Being in an independent network may appeal more to Notre Dame since they are being shut out of most markets. I saw (this weekend in fact) multiple Notre Dame fans getting mad that, even though NC State was throttling UofL, NBC/ACC Network could not legally switch from that game to the Notre Dame-Syracuse game. From what I saw, that cost them a lot of viewers since most decided to watch the last bit of the Ohio State game. While to some that might not seem like a big deal, when the game was finally allowed to be switched over, Notre Dame was driving, up 13-0, and halfway through the 2nd quarter. That’s a lot of money a lot of people wasted on ad space/air time.
I mean, in all honesty, will it happen this year? Not a chance. Will it happen in the future? Oh for sure. Too much money not being made for them not to switch.