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  • You Don’t Know What You’ve Got….

    by Mike Coffey

    They say length doesn’t matter, but I beg to differ. In the 12 years I’ve been pushing the bits and bytes on NDNation and its progenitor sites, I’ve never spent as long a night posting headlines or seen a two-plus screen scroll list of articles. When Forbes and the Wall Street Journal are chiming in on Notre Dame football, something big must be afoot. And afoot it is.

    By now, the news is old: Notre Dame is moving from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference, with five football games thrown in to sweeten the pot. What’s left is the reaction … how do we feel?

    You can get our users’ opinions on any of our message boards. It’s possible my fellow Ops may chime in with their opinions. What you’re going to get here is my take … what we’ve gained, and what we’ve lost.

    Oh great, you say, the hoops guy is going to talk about the ACC move. Well, let’s set aside the hoops hat for a moment and talk about other things.

    Actually, let’s not. The hoops opinion is short and sweet, so let’s get it out of the way: Duh. No-brainer benefit for the program. Big win for Muffet and Mike, and ND basketball in general. Who knows, this might finally get us a hoops practice facility built, since it’s apparently now an “even bigger priority”. And for those who like to pooh-pooh Mike Brey and his effect on ND basketball, rest assured the Internet would not be resounding with opinions how ND’s arrival will be a boon for ACC basketball had he not worked his magic the last decade. Only a Demetrius Jackson commitment in the coming weeks could put icing on this cake.

    But the 800 lb. gorilla in the room demands audience, and audience it will get. Anyone who doesn’t see this as the beginning of the end of ND football independence is fooling themselves. Like the video screen and field turf, it’s going to happen whether we like it or not.

    Back in 1990 when ND announced the move of its non-football sports to the Big East, ND was coming off a national championship and a second-place finish in consecutive seasons. The thought that its hand could be forced into Big East football membership was ludicrous on its face. But after almost 20 years of football mediocrity, ND will allow the ACC to determine which of its five members it will face every season in football as the price of parking the rest of its athletic department.

    How things change. And it makes me sad.

    This is the part where words like “arrogance” and “elitism” get thrown around, and people think those bemoaning the loss of football independence is some kind of shot at the ACC or college football in general. Not so. Granted, I’ve decried the Communistic nature of conferences in the past, and remain no fan of them, ACC or no ACC. But this is about what ND has lost, and they have no one to blame but themselves.

    For 70 years, Notre Dame football was built on a foundation of success from hard work. We didn’t depend on a conference to get us where we were, unless you count the disdain of the Conference Formerly Known as the Integer pushing us to create our own special place in college football. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into crafting a championship-level football program, and the rewards were all the sweeter knowing the work had been ours alone. If you’re looking for an American success story, there you have it.

    But then came 20 years of stewardship that could be described as (at best) inept or (at worst) malfeasant. In those 20 years, the work of the prior 70 seemed to have been undone on purpose. Resting on our laurels, the brand eroded, and now here we (or at least Fr. Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick) sat in North Carolina, hitching the ND wagon to the ACC star.

    Yes, landscapes change. Yes, it’s possible ND needed to make this move regardless. I watched it happen to ND basketball in the 1990’s, and we all know how that turned out.

    But I’d be a lot more willing to accept that alleged “reality” if it came on the heels of 20 years of quality football. If Notre Dame was achieving on the field what it should have and still found itself shut out of the championship structure of the sport, I’d accept conference membership with a rueful shrug.  But to be told what “has to be done” after so many poor decisions by people tasked with maintaining the wonderful thing so much work built … well, it leaves me more than a little cold.  I can’t accept at face value the “need” for conference affiliation when those calling for it lack the street cred to back it up.  They may be right, but it’d be by accident.

    Obviously there’s nothing I or anyone else can do. The contracts are signed, the wheels in motion. Alea iacta est. I got used to Big East conference brethren, I certainly can do it again. And trips to Miami and Atlanta and Raleigh will be novel if nothing else.

    But I’m still sad.  Something unique is going away.  And we won’t know how wrong that loss was until it’s too late.

    83 Responses to “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got….”

    1. Did everyone forget that the Irish have a HUGE football game this Saturday?!

    2. I don’t see any downside. This is a far better place for our non football sports to play than the diminished Big East. And the alignment paves the way for a 10 year TV contract renewal that will make the conference sharing portions look like chump change. This was a good move which would have had to been made even if the last 20 football years looked like the 70s and 80s. And finally, it gives us time to get the team back in the Top 10 every year.

      • When it’s time to renog with the ACC, they have a $50million gun to our head. Don’t know the details, but this is a different situation than independence with the Big East.

    3. What exactly is your problem? Did you want to play Umass, Western Michigan and Tulsa every year? This is a great deal for ND.

    4. I must be fooling myself, at least a bit. I am not convinced this is the beginning of the end of ND football independence. I understand the concern, but it seems just as possible that ND saw the ultimate demise of BE affiliation for ND football and saw this as the best move to protect ND’s independence as long as possible. The affiliation with the BE had already made our post-season options limited without making a BCS bowl. This move should greatly improve our options.

      Despite ND’s football success at the time when joining the BE was announced, I wonder what an ND message board would have looked like immediately after that announcement. I suspect there were some who had similar thoughts back then – that ND would eventually join the BE for football as well.

    5. The true hand that was forced was NOT football mediocrity. As a gate attraction ND football is still in the same place it was those 20 years ago. You can bemoan diminished tv ratings maybe SLIGHTLY in part to on field performance, but 20 years ago you did not have every single Savannah St. football game on ESPN’s Ocho. The fact is, dominant or not in football, the media and conference pressures of realignment and the dollars associated with these changes are what has forced ND into what I feel is the best case scenario. This is a changing college football landscape that has resulted in this quasi-independence, NOT football’s mediocrity. If ND had been #1 the past 5 years they would have had maybe a little more leverage to limit the # of football teams they had to commit to in the ACC season, but could they really have? When you are staring down the barrel of ALL of your other major college sports programs having no home, or a terrible home at that and you look toward one of the only remaining conferences that can bring you the esteem and excellence you need in those programs – they know this…so if football balked at the five games, is there any other conference out there that would have accommodated ND’s football semi-independence in football? Nope. Not one. So for everyone crying foul on this development, what would YOU have done? And your response can not be “I would have been an awesome football team these past five years” because that would not have filled your schedule with D1 top flight football programs in October and November.

    6. The 20 years of football mediocrity make me sad too. The last 20 years have sucked. But, given that 20 year reality, our bargaining position also sucked. And Swarbrick negotiated a good deal at a time when not negotiating any deal at all would have left us in an unstable conference playing SMU, Central Florida, et al., which would suck worse.

      Plus, the ACC has the added benefit of having very few teams that I hate. I hate BC. I used to hate Miami but now Miami hate seems so 80s. Without Mr. Bumfuzzled, I can’t bring myself to hate FSU. I like everyone else.

      • Andrew, you will learn to hate some of these teams real soon. For example, having lived in North Carolina for five years, I can tell you that people there absolutely despise ND. They have strong programs in Bball, Lacrosse, Soccer and Baseball. They will be causing a lot of heartache for Irish fans over the coming years. And do you remember Paul Johnson, the master of the triple option, who beat ND with those little fellas from Navy? Well, now he has some real athletes, and he, his players, and the state of Georgia will be looking forward to playing the Irish. Once teams like GA Tech, FL State, and VA Tech start getting wins against the Irish, you will start to feel differently about them. Hated rivals are formed over time, they will come. There is no shortage of “hate” for ND down here in the south.

    7. I am glad they made the move. We will see less of the Big Ten refs.

    8. You know the old saying “the grass is always greener”, well…… in this case I think it is. In the words of Mr. Swarbrick the “landscape of college football is changing” and for Notre Dame football this will make that adjustment into conference play a little easier. Obviously this is the first step in easing the football program into a conference and out of independent status. Lets face it Notre Dame wanted nothing to do with the Big East in football and with the instability of that conference right now it was the perfect time to move on. In fact, the Big East isn’t really the Big East anymore with the additions of SDSU and TCU. They should probably even change its name.
      As stated in the post, a no brainer for basketball. Playing Duke, UNC among others every year….fantastic. I’ll be sad to see the independence go for football however, three of ND’s natural born enemies play in the ACC, Boston College, Miami and Florida State. Throw in Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Clemson, NCST and now with Pitt and Syracuse it should be exciting. Navy will forever remain on their schedule and I’m sure they’ll make every effort to keep USC. Recruiting wise I think it opens that window of opportunity wider to grab more kids from the south.
      I can go on and on here for awhile but I won’t. I think for all parties involved here it benefits everyone.
      “GO IRISH”

    9. I disagree. We will be forced our hand if the playoff structure changes again and I don’t see that happening for at minimum 8 years. If Notre Dame can restore prominence within 8 years then we have leverage again.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        Trouble is, I’m not sure they’re interested in restoring prominence. Conference membership is the path of least resistance.

        • The ND Administration has made it clear that mediocrity is their goal. They are going down the path that Ted Hesburgh was too wise to be lured to travel.

    10. “In those 20 years, the work of the prior 70 seemed to have been undone on purpose. Resting on our laurels, the brand eroded”

      Maybe I’m not familiar enough with your past writings and your viewpoint to understand why you think this, but I’m curious who you are referring to here. Is it the past brass like Malloy and White? Or are you talking about Jenkins and Swarbrick?

      • Mike Coffey says:

        All of the above

        • That just doesn’t make sense to me. If you want to blame Malloy, Beauchamp, Wadsworth, Rosenthal, White….I understand.

          But blaming Jenkins and Swarbrick for being dealt a bad hand and doing about as much as they can with it….that loses me on the logic.

          • Mike Coffey says:

            Fr. Jenkins approved Weis’ hire and didn’t fire Kevin White after multiple examples of incompetence. Jack Swarbrick kept Charlie Weis around that extra year and hired Brian Kelly.

            • I agree with you regarding Kevin White as many of his mistakes were noticeable in the moment. As for the other comment, gosh that’s an awful lot of Monday Morning Quarterbacking there.

              You’re free to weigh in that you would have done things differently and you may have hindsight on your side but I think it’s irresponsible to suggest that any of the coaching decisions to hire, extend, retain, or fire coaches over the last 20 years were examples of resting on their laurels or losing on purpose. So you would have canned Weis after Year 4… that’s nice, thanks for sharing. Well many other people were curious and optimistic to see what Weis and Tenuta would do in 2009 as the very highly rated recruiting classes of 2006 and 2007 matured. Many people who thought it wise to launch Ty because of lack of effort and poor recruiting, thought it prudent to give Weis an opportunity to amend his titanic ’07 screw-up because he did show passionate effort, is an ND alum, and had highly rated recruiting classes (indeed we landed Teo, Cierre Wood, Eifert, Zach Martin, and others that offseason). Nobody cares if you agree with all that, but I think you should acknowledge that there are a lot of reasonable fans who may have formed a different opinion than you for all the right reasons. To suggest that these people wanted to rest on their laurels or were less passionate about ND football’s success is a tad disrespectful if you ask me.

            • Mike: Would you have let CW go before Jack did, and if so, who would you have hired as the head coach for the football program at that time? Not that I’m a CW fan, but when his performance was being judged after his first couple years, let’s not forget that he had ND in two BCS bowl games before the talent cubbard was bare in his third year and the team went 3-9 (as I recall). Since you obviously don’t like Kelly, who would be your choice to replace him knowing that said individual would want to coach here and recruit under ND’s current academic admittance standards?

    11. John D Collins says:

      When conference realignment was taking place several years ago and conferences were being reconfigured, I wondered why the Big East and ACC couldn’t get together in some way and virtually control TVs from the Northeast to Florida. Instead ND has joined some of its former Big East cousins in migrating to the ACC. I guess the same has been accomplished. This must have been in the cards for a while, what with more ACC teams like MD and WF appearing on ND’s schedule and the College Football Hall of Fame moving to Atlanta without a whimper from ND. The fact that some of the ACC schools have ethics problems with their football programs, like NC troubles me. This seems like more of a win for the ACC and at best an OK for the Irish. What access to bowl games did we pick up? Why did we have to give up five games a year? It did make Jack’s job easier as now the conference office can set our schedule. I guess it does beat going great distances to Boise, Houston, and San Diego for our other sports. It does not seem like we actually gained anything.

      • We didn’t gain anything? Have you seen the football team’s post-season options for this season? It’s either make a BCS bowl or accept the sloppy leftovers of bowl games left vacant after the BCS conference teams fill their slots based on the contracts they have. The ACC agreement will likely give our football team the best post-season options it has seen since joining the BE.

        As an added benefit, it puts almost all of our Olympic sports in as good if not better of a position as it currently is in the BE.

        Additionally, the buyout required to leave the conference at least gives the appearance that the ACC will have stability as a conference for the near future.

        How can these be seen as anything other than net positives from this move?

        • Mike Coffey says:

          Would we need the ACC’s post-season options if we had remained a strong post-season option for a bowl? If ND was making the high-quality bowls this year, would those bowls be more willing to ensure ND had the access? Or are they not willing to put political capital on the line when we may just stink up the field as a result, meaning the bowls pissed off a conference or two for no reason?

          • I understand that, but it isn’t the reality of our current situation. The reality is that we’ve won 2 post-season bowls since 1993 and have no season with fewer than 3 losses after post-season since then either. I don’t know if bowls would have been willing to strike a deal with ND in the mix, but in today’s agreements with conferences, my gut tells me these bowls found it simpler to guarantee teams from BCS conferences every year rather than try to come up with a contract that included the possibility of ND taking a slot.

            It is annoying that 20 years of inept leadership of the program has led to this. Hopefully, Swarbrick et. al will change that. If not, ND might as well put their football program in the same category as Harvard and Yale…

            All that said, given our current status and options available to us, do you see any better of a realistic option for this program than what we accepted from the ACC? I can’t envision one…

            • Mike Coffey says:

              But that was my point. If they hadn’t screwed up, we wouldn’t be where we are. And it makes me sad. I don’t have the energy anymore to get pissed about it.

          • You are looking at the outgoing bowl landscape in a skewed fashion. If ND was cranking out BCS performances this past decade+ and qualifying for BCS bowls it still would not (and did not) change the fact that the bowl tier available below was awful. Additionally, you are positing that ND had lost leverage because of the mediocrity, but the fact is, ND still is and was the strongest national gate in the land when it came to Bowl games. If ND was not filling stands in ways no other teams can nationally, and the support/attendance diluted along with the on field performance you would have a case; but that is not true. Conference realignments, contracts, DOLLARS, tie-ins, left ND on the outside looking in. They were still a preferred draw over the #2-4 teams in most if not all of the bowl tethered conferences.

            Whether they spent the last 10 years in the top 5 or in the top 50, their drawing power has not waned. Could it have helped the team negotiate 4 games instead of 5? Possibly. But again I ask you (politely): in light of the changing landscape of big conference realignment, what else could ND have done? ND’s mediocrity had nothing to do with conference realignment. A realignment that would have resulted in ND playing the SMU’s, BYU’s and Central Michigans of the world in October/November. A schedule each year that keeps USC and one solid midwest rotational foe, along with a rotation of FSU, Miami, Clemson, Va Tech, UNC, etc is not an awful place to start from.

            One final thought: when detractors do the math, they talk about how you can add USC and Navy to the 5 ACC games leaving “only” the remaining 5 games to schedule every year. If you count a commitment to playing Stanford then it is only 4. As an INDEPENDENT ND CHOOSES to schedule those teams year in and year out. They count as an independent selection just as much as the Oklahoma’s and Texas games that are upcoming.

            So a rotation of 5 games against ever changing ACC programs, and 7 games of our choosing?? And programs like basketball and baseball get to play in the much higher quality ACC? Best case scenario in the current college football mess.

    12. . . . I think ND was painted with too broad a brush. While it’s self-induced ineptness over these past 20 or so years has weakened it to a significant degree, it is also a “victim” if you will, of a noose being tightened around it by the other four significant conferences (I excluded the ACC) which has caused it to to labor at putting together a football schedule; hence a WMU, UMass, etc. I believe had N D hesitated too much longer prior to pulling the trigger with the ACC, they would have been subservient to a dramatically lessened position in collegiate athletics.

    13. This is a good move for ND and ND football. Playing a bunch of Big Least remnants every year would be unimaginably stupid. We already play a lot of ACC teams so scheduling 5 a year is not a big disruption versus the Big Least/ACC mix we have now. Perhaps now we can get rid of the Temples and UMass stuff. We still have 7 games to schedule (4 plus Navy, USC and probably Stanford). I’d like to see us shitcan Michigan, keep Michigan State and am indifferent about Purdue.

    14. Gene Patton says:

      Hoops – not sure that this is exactly a no-brainer benefit to the program. Certainly a no-brainer benefit to the ACC. The Big East Women’s rivalry that has developed between UConn and ND was one of the best in the sport – the teams faced off 3-4 times a year (reg season, Big East Tourney and sometimes NCAAs) and lately they have all had significant implications. ND becomes the best team in the conference immediately and lifts every other team. I’m sure a nice rivaly with Duke will develop, but nothing like UConn. For the Men, the Big East has been the best conference top to bottom the past several years and Brey has built his team to be consistently among the top echelon of the league. The ACC is a fantastic conference, but they play a different style which will take an adjustment period. Additionally, I’m not sure programs like Syracuse and Pitt are going to carry their dominant teams to the ACC. Look at what happened to Boston College. No geographic links to ACC country and they’ve been rather irrelevant since they moved (same for football). With Boeheim coming to the end of his career, will that program continue to bring in the recruits it once did? And without the geographical alignment of Big East teams and a conference tourney at the Garden. Not so sure. I’m confident Brey will continue to field a competitive team and we’ll be fine (as a national brand, geography won’t negatively impact ND), just don’t see the great beneift.

      As for football, this is fantastic. This is not the result, as indicated above, of 20 years of poor steward ship. Sure, you can blame the team’s result in part to this, but not the necessity to align with a conference. The landscape was changing regardless of what Notre Dame did. Conferences gained more power and monopolized the bowl games. As there is still a potential movement towards superconferences, ND put itself in a position where decsions won’t be left out of their hands. They would guarantee themselves full affiliation with the ACC if that time comes. In the meantime, it further improves our access to high school kids in the southeast. So what if we have to play 5 games against those teams. That’s a great start to any scheduling. We’ll still have USC and Navy, and can still fill in accordingly. Yes, I’ll miss Michigan, Michigan St. and Purdue every year, but when instead you have teams like Virginia Tech, Clemson, Florida St., etc., only the pure traditionalists will have a long term negative outlook. And it’s not like we can’t continue to have them on some sort of rotating basis.

      Kudos to the administration and Swarbrick for continuing to think ahead and align us with the best potential options for the future.

      • In fairness to Boston College, even with the last two seasons of disappointing football performances, they still have the second most conference wins in football since they joined the ACC.

    15. It is fitting to name the loss – thanks.

      And I appreciate the acknowledgement that this simply could be an unavoidable new reality – that the landscape really is radically different. Though that inevitability may be an accurate assessment (and there is considerable evidence to support that position), we shouldn’t let that obscure the fact that the adminstration has mismanaged the football program for the last 20 years and the 5 game requirement is a consequence of the fact (and is much less than ideal – I am willing to take 4 given some of the ACC’s members).

      And now we’re back in the same conference as Boeheim. Ironic, given his bitter comments last year when Syracuse left the Big East, but still unfortunate. And being associated with Kevin White has no upside.

    16. The times have changed……ND has to change as well. The days of media support is over and has been since 1993. Conferences are now the ‘in’ thing as more and more independents had to join a conf to survive. Especially with all the bowl games tie-ins with conferences.

      It would be crazy to think every year we would be a BCS-bound team so they did the next best thing. Keep our independence, get bowl tie-ins and chance still at the national championship game.

      Kudos to Jack and Fr. Jenkins for a stoke of genesis for this move.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        The trouble is, the administrators who are saying the landscape has changed are the same ones that ran the program into the ground.

        The fans saying we have to “change with the times” are the same ones who wanted to give Weis one more year to “save recruiting”.

        I want to hear that from someone with credibility before I acquiesce.

        • I think we have to change some things with the times. I also did not want to give Weis one more year to “save recruiting”. In fact, everyone I graduated with says the same thing. And none of them wanted to give Weis another year.

          I think you are coupling those 2 groups together because it serves your interest.

        • Who has credibility with you on this issue?

        • You can’t think the landscape has not changed and is not continuing to change, can you? A plethora of conference re-alignments which are not finished, the end of the BCS system, other bowl tie-ins, staggering new TV contracts, the rise of teams which in the past were inconsequential, (temporary) dominance of the SEC, the list goes on. The administrators don’t have to say it, a blind man could see it.

          To me keeping ND football independent of the ACC was a big accomplishment. To those who say this is the first step to loss of football independence I say prove it. And for the record, ND will have plenty to say about how and when the ACC games are scheduled so long as they play every team over three years- hopefully home and away vs each over six years. What remains to be seen is what 4 teams are scheduled each year aside from ACC plus Navy, USC and Stanford. As far as I’m concerned, other than Michigan State the fewer Big 10 teams we play the better.

        • Mike: Like the rest of your readers on this thread, I have no credibility. However, I’d love your answer to the following question:

          Put yourself in Jack and Fr. Jenkins’ place for just a minute. Besides football and hockey, all of ND’s sports are in the Big East Conference, which with West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving, is demonstrating signs that it’s going the way of the Titanic. What would you have done for a conference affiliation for all of those sports that would give ND football a safety net in case the so-called four superconferences are ever born (and lots of so-called experts think that’ll still happen someday) and with ND football facing the possibility of being totally excluded?

          And please stop, at least for the sake of answering this question, with the sobbing over how Notre Dame got into this position. The fact is that Jack and Fr. Jenkins faced the situation as it stands today, and my question is what would you have done that would’ve been better than what they did? Thanks!

          • Mike Coffey says:

            For football, it may be “going the way of the Titanic”. For all the other sports involved, however, the Big East remains relatively strong. Louisville, Marquette, Cincinnati and Georgetown have robust programs. UConn may be falling off the map in men’s hoops, but Geno still rules the roost on the women’s side. Baseball has St. John’s, and they’re not going anywhere.

            I think the “superconference” idea isn’t going to happen. Some of the conferences are just starting to find decisions made with a football focus oftentimes don’t work well for the other sports. While football rules a lot of roosts, Title IX is going to demand attention elsewhere whether football folks like it or not.

            I don’t view the ACC as a bad place. I just rue that we’re dealing from such a position of weakness right now, which could have been avoided with better stewardship of the football program.

            • Mike: You could be absolutely correct about things being different if the football program was better on the field these days, but we are where we are and I’m very hopefull that joining the ACC will work out well for ND.

              The more things seem to be settling with the conferences these days, I join you in hoping the super conference idea never materializes. I’ve thought from the beginning that four super conferences was insane, and I hope the “powers that be” come around to that way of thinking.

              Thanks for all you and your compatriots do to provide NDNation for rabid Notre Dame supporters like myself! GO IRISH!

        • “The fans saying we have to “change with the times” are the same ones who wanted to give Weis one more year to “save recruiting”.”

          Revisionist history. The argument to give Weis one more year wasn’t to “save recruiting” as you say. The argument to keep him, whether you personally concurred with it or not, was that Weis had demonstrated in ’05 and ’06 that he could have success with a group of experienced players led by an upperclassman NFL caliber QB, and that was the type of roster they thought they had heading into the 2009 season. After suffering through the 2 rebuilding years (caused by Ty and exacerbated by Weis), Weis wasn’t an ostrich – unlike his predecessor he DID make changes to his coaching staff and coaching style, and he continued to bring in highly ranked recruiting classes. As a result, many reasonable minds thought it prudent to see if Weis could take the next step and improve from 6-6 to at least 9-3 in 2009, and then see where things stand from there. And if he didn’t, then we would fire this ND alum after 2009 with no regrets, and that’s exactly what happened.

          Comparing him to his predecessor, the decision to launch Ty was urgent in 2004 because we were already in our 2nd consecutive poor recruiting class and could not afford a 3rd. With Weis, we just didn’t have that same urgency to launch him because recruiting was not hemorraging (sp?) the way it was under Ty. Other than all of us being a year older, we were not really in a worse position after 2009 than we would have been had we fired Weis after 2008. The same can not be said about what things would have looked like if we fired Ty after 2005 instead of 2004.

    17. Why isn’t anyone talking about the Bowl affiliations this brings?

    18. Jason Thompson says:

      Let’s just all agree we’re happy it isn’t the Big 10 *11 **12

    19. I think it was the “safe” move. As you said, upgrade for all other sports in general.

      Pros
      -Safety in case the Big East implodes, which could have forced us to fully join a conference since we would have no leverage at that point.
      -Better bowl tie-ins, which was becoming a huge issue

      Cons
      -ACC dictates almost half of our schedule and we will have some undesireable matchups every year
      -Huge buyout pretty much locks us into ACC forever, which could be bad if ACC is weakened by teams leaving to form super conferences (FSU/Miami)

      If we could have agreed to only 3 or 4 ACC games per year, it would have been a huge win for us I think. 5 is a bit steep, but I think it sets us up in the long run to be more stable as a football independent. The Big East is most likely going to fall apart at some point and we were smart to land somewhere before that happened.

      I’m definitely not excited about it, but I’m relieved that we no longer have to worry about the fate of the Big East.

      • Your second con doesn’t make sense. The huge buyout is for all conference members, not us alone. Can’t envision a scenario financially where FSU/Miami could leave and we could not do the same.

        As a native of Columbus, OH, giving the B1G the finger once and for all was the best thing to come out of this.

    20. Mike Coffey says:

      By the way, I’d be remiss not to point out the one silver lining that came out of yesterday — telling the B1G to go shit in a hat

    21. I agree with you Mike. Anyone not staring at this and saying that this is the beginning of the end of ND football’s independence is kidding themselves.

    22. While I very often disagree with your assessment of situations (for example, I hold Swarbrick in high regard, and believe we haven’t gotten your Tier 1 type coach because most of them have no desire to come to ND), I hear what you’re saying about being sad about the quasi-end of our independence.

      All that said, I think there are a few issues to note:

      1) The landscape has changed dramatically. And whether we were a top 10 program every year or not, our hand was going to be pushed. Why? One example – Conferences are moving toward eliminating late season games out of conference. So we would’ve struggled to schedule games in November.

      2) Our schedule was stale anyway. We act like we were playing different teams every year. In fact, we’ve played Navy, USC, Purdue, Michigan, Mich St, Pitt, BC, and Stanford just about every year for the last 10. That’s 9 of 12 games. We filled the others with assorted sleepers, such as: SD State, Tulsa, West Mich, Wash St, Army, Air Force, Nevada. We’ve had some Tier 2s (Md, So Fla, Wake, Utah, UConn). But this was not a schedule that was unique.

      Our schedule going forward will have BC, Wake, Ga Tech, Duke and Fla State one year….followed by Pitt, Clemson, Maryland, UNC, Va Tech the next….with UVA, Syracuse, NCState, Miami the next. That’s some nice needed change.

      End of the day this is all somewhat irrelevant. JUST WIN.

      • I agree with all of tahat. Navy, USC, and Purdue are the rivals that go way, way back. They used to take breaks with MSU but rarely do that anymore. Michigan, Pitt, BC and Stanford are for more recent rivalries than people want to think.

    23. No, the true beginning of the end was years ago when every other independent team joined a conference, and then again more recently as the Big East began to fall apart.

      Had we been more successful over the last 20 years we would still be in the unenviable position of looking for an ally as the Big East falls apart with no viable alternative to a negotiated agreement. I agree that if we had more cachet we might have negotiated it down to 3 or 4 guaranteed games, whoop-dee-doo.

      No, I don’t agree with the notion that this decision makes it inevitable that we will join the ACC as a football member any more than I agreed that joining the Big East many years ago made that inevitable. Our new status quo is the same as our old status quo: We have access to the national championship, access to bowl games, and ability to schedule annual road games in the west coast, midwest, northeast, and southeast. I see no reason why we would not try to preserve this new status quo as long as we can – and if some kind of power play develops that eventually makes this impossible and we have to join a football conference then I’m glad it’s going to be a conference that won’t regionalize/marginalize us as a Midwest school quite as much as the Big 10 or Big 12 would.

      • Couldn’t agree more.

      • Bingo. More than ND’s mediocrity the last 20 years, it was the demise of BE football that caused our defection. If the BE was still a vibrant football conference then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But BE football has zero clout with the defections over the last ten years (Miami, VA Tech, BC, Pitt, SYR, WVA, etc). BE bowl tie-ins are now weak. Didn’t used to be. Today we have nowhere to go if we don’t make the BCS or future 4-team playoff. An 8-4 season used to get us to Jacksonville to play NC State or Ga Tech in the Gator Bowl…not glamorous but a NYD bowl that is better than what is available to us now.
        Of course, ND would be status quo if the landscape didn’t change. The BE was a great conference for our non-football sports and we had football independence with decent bowl tie-ins. Again, the demise of Big East football, not ND football mediocrity set this in motion.

        And I would not say we negotiated from a place of weakness because everybody still wants our brand. EVERYBODY. There has to be some give and take in every negotiation and we were able to come away with the items that were our highest priority: independence in football, a strong non-football conference affiliation that has more than a couple of private schools that prize academics, a geographical fit (NY to FL), and good bowl tie-ins for the down years when we go 6-6, 7-5, 8-4. Yes, we had to give up some of our scheduling independence in football and we are financially locked in with a $50M exit fee, but do you think you could have negotiated a better deal? Tell me what a perennial top 10 contending ND football team would have changed in terms of what we gave the ACC in this negotiation without the ACC changing what they gave us?
        Again, forces out of our control set this in motion and Jenkins and Swarbrick have made some pretty sweet lemonade in my opinion.

    24. Mr. Coffey: You “don’t have the energy anymore.” You and me both, buddy. I barely have the energy to post here anymore.

      Too much has changed at our Alma Mater – on and off the field. I’m not going to get political here, because I know that you (still) have a quick trigger finger. But you ARE a fellow alum, and I know that YOU KNOW what I mean.

      Whatever happens with the ACC will happen. I’ll always follow the football team. How can I not? It’s there, in my blood. But it’s certainly not the same. Most probably, it never will be.

    25. Me thinks the ACC hitched their wagon to the ND star, not the other way around. Plus no BIG and no BIG refs and SE presence are all plusses. SE recruits (FB&BB) will love that there will be plenty of games for parents and friends to attend. Super conferences are 4-5 years away. ND is strategically positioned in the ACC and we are slowly climbing the “relavancy” hill. By the way, hope not too much energy is tied up here and we can perform well against MSU on Saturday.

    26. ND is located in northern Indiana. After WWII that was a good location to attract top notch coaches and football players to a premier program. But the midwest declined starting in the 1970s. Demographically, the USA grew to the southeast, the south, the southwest and the west. For three decades that growth was not apparent in college football results, but by the aughts it became apparent that the best athletes and the best programs were not in the midwest. Though ND continued to attract great talent, it seemed to miss more often than it hit when going after “name” coaches and “5 star” athletes. The great young coaches went elsewhere to make more money than to come to ND. Think Urban Meyer, Gary Barnett, and other coaches that flirted with offers from ND but passed to go elsewhere, leaving ND with Weis, Willingham and Davie. Think also of the shocked disbelief when Manti Te’o decided on ND rather than USC. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, it was a shocker when a Te’o chose USC over ND.

      Regardless of future football conference tie-in, ND has now committed to a new direction, which, if parlayed right, will allow the best coaches to choose ND over Texas and the five stars to choose ND over USC. Wait and see, my friends. Tex

    27. This move is better and better the more I think about it. This expands our National Identity. The Big East’s recent turnover has been horrible for the conference. Moving to the ACC gives us more exposure on the entire East Coast, retains our Mid-West ties merely by being located in the Mid-West, and keeps our most important three rivals on our schedule (USC, Navy and Stanford). We retain our exposure on the West Coast each year. We actually get to refresh our schedule with 15 teams rotating through every three years and are not tied to essentially the same schedule each year. The additional bowl tie ins are essential.

      This move is great for the non-revenue sports as well. The ACC has strong programs in most of the non-revenue sports. This aspect of the move is almost worthwhile on its own.

    28. When England (aka Notre Dame) stood alone to face Germany (aka conferences and media) in 1940, Churchill had USA (aka no other Independent of consequence) to join the fight. If Texas had broken away and gone Independent…if PSU and Miami were still Independent…we’d have others to join the fray. As it is, ND is still standing (maybe on only one leg) but we’ve done a nice job of hedging. We really needed some allies. Looking forward, eventually, if we do formally join the ACC in football, all in, it’s likely ND will become the conference’s 800# gorilla ala Michigan and Texas. Lots of conference connections, lead early on by Gene Corrigan (http://www.roanoke.com/sports/college/wb/298712), Bubba Cunningham, White, Hatch. As it stands, the only way to reverse this is to get some other schools, besides BYU, to go Independent and that seems unlikely.

    29. I think it is misguided to pretend that ND isn’t part of the big business of college football. There were a lot of other independant college football programs, and ND helped hasten the demise of independant football when it bolted from CFA to NBC. Not saying it wouldn’t have happened anyway, but by the mid-90’s independant football was dead, and this is yet another continuation of that. ND is independant because of some kind of moral superiority, it is independant because of its leverage, which it has been losing because circumstances beyond its control. And this isn’t just about winning enough, at the end of the day you have to be able to schedule good games year in an year out.

    30. Older Domer says:

      This whole board is comical. It was Ted the Head and Ned Joyce, who decided to move Notre Dame from a small regional University, in everything but football to the highly regarded institution it is today. The fact that my kids can’t get in unless I’m a Sorin Society donor or more, or they are either huge, fast or otherwise athletically gifted is a fact of that decision 60 years ago.

      Ever since, there has been an ebb and flow of attention to the athletic department. I’m not sure I love it, but this isn’t a knee jerk move. Those with knee jerk opinions haven’t been paying attention for the last twenty or really forty years. Notre Dame is not a mid-western institution, in any respect but geography. The only conference the CSC would join 100% is the Ivy League. Accept the fact that they let us join a much better conference, and that the $50,000,000 locks them out of dropping the Irish any further down the BCS barrel.

    31. someone suggests a title or conference title in the ACC now? Or getting into the top 10? Really? Look at your basic schedule each year: SC/STANFORD/1 MEATCHICKEN rep…then throw 5 ACC teams: any year you could face either a VATECH/CLEMSON/FLOR ST for startes..does anyone actually think we sweep that schedule-with restrictions still attached? We could have joined any conference and the template would have been identical.

    32. Larry Delaney '60 says:

      It’s all about the money our athletic programs generat (especially football). We still have the NBC contract and that will probably get better when renewed.

      The ACC has a lot of classy football programs, and playing 5 of them per year is not a bad thing!

      We can still have our traditional rivals on the schedule, and that is a good thing. Basketball and many other sports will have good competition and a great schedule.

      On balance, I see ND in a very good place!

    33. Frank W Johnson says:

      My Dad played for Leahy and I grew up in South Bend, graduating from ND. I’ve watched every ND game since 1965, most of it from the Monogram Section. So, I’ve been around for a long time and known what ND football once was, and sadly what it has become..

      Nothing pisses me off more than Swarbrick claiming that it’s really important for ND to be able to use football in a way that ND always has: To promote the school.Rockne, Leahy, Ara and Holtz and their didn’t “use” football as a means to an end to promote the school. They and their players were committed to being the best college football program. Period. And they built the school’s reputation, and financial value, as a football power by winning National Championships. They gave their toil, blood sweat and tears-along with the long term use of their bodies- to the commitment to being the greatest college football power on earth.

      Now, we’ve got pussy footed lawyers like Swarbrick, and pie in the sky academics like Jenkins giving us the Kumbaya treatment about how they’re going to use football like its some kind of Christian credit default swap. In the meantime, they have neutered the program, making it completely irrelevant in the national debate of football powers.

      And please don’t give me this BS about joining the ACC being good for basketball. I have season tickets. Nobody goes to the games. The students don’t care. Connecticut, West Virginia and Syracuse didn’t make the basketball program better by having us compete in the Big East. Believing we’re going to become some kind of basketball power by being aligned to the ACC is complete fantasy.

      We’re already irrelevant in the two sports that matter to the public: Football and Basketball. This is just one more step down the slope of a complete loss of our inheritance. We’re like the 3rd generation of a spoiled trust fund chump, taking for granted what made us important, and running away from it as if we’re too good for the hard work and dedication that made us relevant in the first place. Instead, we finagle deals that make us seem important, when in fact we’re trading on our better history, while destroying it in the process.

      Our AD is a lawyer. That’s really all you need to know about ND. Where we once commanded respect by excellence, with an ex-coach AD whose name was “Moose”, we now manufacture through clever marketing schemes. If the alumni sit passively and let this continue, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. Unfortunately, we are so far along to being Northwestern that it is probably a lost cause.

    34. Mike this is one of your best articles ever. I too am too tired to be pissed after 22 years of gut wrenching mediocrity.
      Sadly ND has become the victim of the same mistakes that sunk many of this countries best corporations(ie GM).
      The administration was more concerned with the BRAND, IMAGE, MARKETING, and PROMOTIONS while the product languished in mediocrity due to lack of QUALITY CONTROL.
      So what did these Corporations do? Went out of business, got bought out or begged for bailouts.
      ND got a bailout in the Big East first and now the ACC is the new private equity conference.
      Yes we can sell Tickets, Memorabilia, and TV Advertising, but the flagship brand, football, stinks and is stuck in mediocrity.
      We haven’t punched another team in the mouth for years. Our opponents come to South Bend and push us around.
      Yea the Echoes are awake but not cheering, they are shaking their heads in disbelief for there is no more Thunder, but plenty of MONEY!

    35. Mike:

      O.K., you’re “sad” about the last 18 years of ND football since Holtz “resigned” under the Malloy/Wadsworth regime, and what followed was an inept bunch of head football coaches.

      Yeah I’m sad, too, but you can’t erase the history, but I absolutely can’t put Father Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick into that group of mis-guided administrators.

      Staying in the disintegrating Big East, where we had some commitment, I believe, to play a number of games with the some of the crappiest BCS programs now left, would not have benefited the football program.

      Oh, BTW, we still are football-independent! We are re-negotiating the NBC contract, and can keep all the revenue, as I understand. And I think from NBC’s standpoint, ND vs. FSU, NC, Pitt, WVU, et.al., are certainly more ratings-attractive than ND vs. Temple, etc.

      As far as the BB program: We are now back in the strongest BB conference after all of the Big East defections.

      Bob B., ND ’67

    36. The last time ND won a national championship, it played 5 independant teams including Miami (#1), Penn State, Navy, Pitt and WVa (#3). None of these teams are independant anymore. 3 of them are in/headed to the ACC. The NCAA has always been about the cash, at least since NCAA v. Board of Regents in 1984. It is silly to act like this is about mediocre football.

    37. It’s a little too late and I’m a little too drunk so I won’t get into all of my feelings for this change BUT……..is it just me being a 80’s baby and living in Columbus,OH that makes me extremely more upset to possibly lose annual games with Michigan State and Michigan? Trust me I get it. I know the significance of the other rivalries. Btw USC undoubtedly holds the record every year for number of nights in a row I can’t sleep before kick off. I hate them with every ounce of my being. Navy…..yea again makes total sense. That’s history. Stanford? Yep I get it! But no other games except for the USC game have had me annually excited months before kick off like those 2 games. They are two great rivals. Maybe its the Columbus, OH Big 10 branding I have been trying to wetsand off my baby ass coming out in me but I look at the last 10 years of these two matchups and they have most years been the highlight of the season. I mean they have been amazing, gut wrenching, down to the wire nationally renowned games that are usually won in the trenches. Classic Notre Dame football. I would hate to see either if them go. BTW ladies and gentlemen! I have been visiting this forum for well over 7 years and have never posted so take it easy on me!!!!

    38. I think you raise a critical point. Twelve years ago, ND had the cache to preserve its independent status by standing alone in the BCS scheme. Today, given 12 years of mediocrity (thanks to poor decision-making) we clearly do not have the leverage to maintain that unique position. I think the good news is that given ND’s television contracts, its clear that the foundation is still there. Even today, no other school could command a national audience in the same way that a successful Irish squad can. The key thing is, can we, in the next 8 years, build a house on top of that foundation that will survive the next storm of change. It will be even more difficult, but at least we still control our own, and potentially the destiny of college football.

      One thing that I would say will be critical in the coming years is to make a concerted public effort to level the playing field. If I were ND, the first thing I would be doing is going to the SEC and putting pressure on their commissioner to live up to the suggestions he made on reforming the conference. That to me can potentially remake the landscape of college football and place a great deal of pressure on other institutions and conferences to do the same.

      We need to understand that winning on the field is only one front in this war. To preserve our ability to compete, we’re going to need to use what’s left of our heft to clean up the cesspool that the NCAA and the BCS have created.

    39. This is a great deal for everyone involved. The Big East no longer worked for ND and we needed a place to play our other sports. The teams that were brought into the BE recently are not educational piers of ND and it wasn’t a good fit. The ACC has some of the top Div. 1 schools for education and shares some of the standards that ND promotes. Schools like Duke and BC are also among the top schools for graduation of their athletes.

      Looking at it from the ACC point of view, ND games generate a lot of cash. That is a fact. By locking us for 5 games a year and playing every team in the league once every 3 years, all ACC teams will be a part of the cash train. 5 is also the right number as it allows ND to schedule it’s traditional rivals which we wish to maintain. How can anyone argue against that? With ND’s history and tradition, any move made MUST maintain those traditions. By leaving us 7 games a year to do it, that works perfectly. All around a great move for everyone.

    40. hi – how’s about updating NDNATION’s football roster to 2012 instead of 2010 and adding the alphabet one? heh … just a suggestion. GO IRISH!

    41. Dear Author, I respect your opinions and value your contributions to this forum, but cheer up man. I think most people view this move as brilliant. This broadens ND’s recruiting ability, strengthens the schedule, gives the fans better games to watch and fresh matchups, increases ND’s national schedule coverage with more games played in new pockets of the US. Put your hate for White and Weis in a time capsule an bury it. They’re gone. Swarbrick and Kelly seem to be making all the right moves to improve the team and uphold the tradition.

      Now, let’s focus on beating Michigan State!!

    42. I don’t see how this is the end of independence at all; it is a great way to get the best of both worlds-Independence and bowl tie ins. The move is genius.

    43. as long as the “football playoff” allows for “at-large bids”, there’s no reason for us to join a conference…nor do I think we will join a conference!! No way the “elite” conferences will ever alow a playoff to only allow conference champions since they will fancy their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place finishers as being better than WAC and MWC conference champions. Therefore, there should always be an “at large” bid in the playoff….and as long as that’s the case, there’s no reason for us to join a conference. Go Irish!!

    44. While I appreciate the opinion and viewpoint of the author, I disagree that this is the beginning of the end for ND football independence. Actually, I think it ensures such independence and gives ND leverage to keep rivals such as MSU, Purdue and Michigan on the schedule.
      First, it has been announced that USC, Navy and Stanford remain on the schedule. No change there.
      Second, ND now will play 5 ACC teams. This is what should be examined more closely because it is not as drastic a scheduling development as has been portrayed. The ACC has been changing and now includes Pitt, BC, GT and Miami – 4 teams that for the most part have been a part of ND’s schedules for a long time, especially Pitt, GT (opener for renovated Stadium) and Miami (pre 1991). BC is more recent, beginning, I believe, with the Liberty Bowl in the 70s. FSU is no stranger to the schedule nor is North Carolina (didn’t Montana beat them with pass to Bergmeier?). Consequently, ND is really adding only one or two ACC teams to its schedule on a regular basis. For the most part, ND has always had at least 3 “ACC” teams on their schedule, albeit when the teams were in different conferences.
      Finally, there are 4 teams remaining on the schedule. These can easily accommodate Purdue, MSU and Michigan, while leaving room for the occassional Texas, Oklahoma, BYU, etc. game.
      I believe that our Big Ten rivals were singled out as possibly being casualties of the ACC move more in response to the Big Ten’s not so subtle jabs at ND that if the Big Ten moves to an 8 or 9 game schedule, certain non-conference rivalries may have to be discontinued (read: ND). This is ND’s way of saying to the Big Ten that two can play that game. I don’t see Purdue ever leaving the schedule. MSU and Michigan will probably begin a rotation, with MSU seeing more games than Michigan. As correctly observed in the wonderful book Natural Enemies, the ND/Michigan rivalry has been played more off the field than on the field over the years. And with Urban Meyer at OSU and the expanding playoff format, the days of the Big Ten Championship being more important than the National Championship will begin to fade, as has the 3 yards in a cloud of dust from the days of Woody and Bo. The relevance of this being that Michigan and perhaps ND will likely not want to be on the other’s schedule on a regular basis because that game impacts both schools National Championship aspirations very early in a season. We will see. Just my speculation. But I see the move strengthening ND’s ability to remain independent in football.

    45. I wonder if players from 20 years ago (like Zorich and Rice) can get into ND today? If so, then ND needs more of that type of player! If not, then start getting use to 8-5 seasons as a great season and going to the Sun Bowl as an award from now on!!!!!!

      BY THE WAY….GREAT ARTICLE!

    46. Wow a lot of strong feelings here about ND football and the ACC. First I would like to commend Swarbrick. The ACC is a strong conference for all sports, is a minor upgrade over the Big East at its pinnacle for Men’s and Woman’s basketball. Problem is Big East is becoming Big Easy with the exit of so many quality programs to what else but the ACC. I for one can’t wait to see the basketball matchups with Duke/NC/Wake, plus we get to keep playing big east familiars Syracuse/Pitt/BC as well as other quality teams like Maryland and FSU. Brey and Muffit have the programs on solid footing and there is no reason to believe they won’t be competitive in the new league. ACC is solid in all other sports so this will also keep the other ND sports relavent.

      Now FB…..people as everyone who is old enough to remember we are not what we once were in FB. Almost 20 years of schyso behavoir, mediocrity, and underperforming against top opponents has eroded the product, but not the brand. Every other major conference including the Big10+ woud wanted our FB program to give us admitance. I think Swarbrick worked a good deal. The ACC is down a little in FB with FSU and Miami not really dominating like they did in the 90s. We will me a marque matchup and TV appearance for their teams. 5 games seems right. It will allow us to keep our most meaningful rivals in USC and Navy, and it will allow us to still regularly play Big10 and local foes like MI/MSU/Purdue. It will still allow us to schedule special games like the shamrock series games and it will leave us room for a few lesser opponents to ballance the schedule. I don’t know how this isn’t a win, especially when it opens us up to far more bowl considerations and has us playing in FL more.

      To those that bemoan that this is the beginning of the end for FB indedpendace……Maybe, maybe not. That depends on some factors ND can control and some they can not. If both sides like this agreement and find it beneficial, and if the NCAA does not tinker with the 4 team championship equation for a while then this deal could be the best way to keep us indy for another 10+ years. If we have to go conference for FB that will be a sad day, but we will have already established ourselves in the ACC and look its not the SEC for Football so we will be very competitive.

      Also to all the contrarians. After last night I think the FB program is trending in the right direction. We may still only win 7 or 8 games against this murderous schedule but look at what you are seeing on the field. We have speed/athleticism/depth and big play ability like we have not had since the Holtz era. We have a lot of youth on the field and will bring back most of the O and D next year with even more experience. We just dominate a top 10 opponent on the road and did it with OL and DL play. After a couple of tough years on and off the field I think Kelly and Diacco have settled in and last night was the best game plan and play calling I have seen since their arrivial. Kelly is solid in a lot of areas. He is a good statesman, a great recruiter, the kids love him as is evidenced by him being able to retain top SR players like Teo and Floyd when Weiss was more than happy to ship them the NFL. He is good at developing talent and playing young guys as is evidenced by the DL and DBs and Golsen. He finally has the type of team he likes on the field and that is only going to continue. After two years of trying to manage and playcalling too conservatively for his nature, he is getting back to who we hire, which is a creative, unpredictable, gambler. This can bite you at times, but when the talent is good and confidence is high it generally works because you see what bland coaches like Dantonio give you.

      So, and I have said this here before, lets just quit all the neihsaying and sit back and watch. This year is going to be fun and this team is likely going to exceed expectations and begin the return to glory. I am tried of people saying the university wants mediocrity and doesn’t care about FB. They upgraded the stadium, they upgraded the practice facilities, they upgraded our bowl options with the ACC deal. Admissions has been more flexible even while maintaining much higher standards than other schools, we still graduate 90% of our FB players, and academic affairs seems to have eased its prior nazi stance by letting Kelly take the lead and manage his players off the field issues (Like Floyd, Reese, and Wood). I think the mix is looking about right and I for the first time in 20 years believe we are going to be back to contending for BCS and championships regularly. This sounds a hell of a lot better than what we have had. GO IRISH!

    47. Our “independence” is completely dependent on our ability to win football games. Last night we laid the wood to MSU. This morning, every naysaying pundit had jumped on the ND bandwagon. If we win football games, we control our own “independence”. It is as simple as that.

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