Notre Dame will finally be part of a conference in football. Yes, the Fighting Irish will play a full ACC schedule as part the 2020 season, expanding the partnership between the parties. To be clear, this is a one-season deal but the Irish will be eligible to win a conference title. If Notre Dame was smart, this would be the first step towards full membership.
The ACC set its schedule on Thursday, announcing Notre Dame would play a full 10-game conference slate, while also being allowed to play one non-conference game. The non-conference game must be played in the home state of the ACC institution and the opponent must adhere to all of the conference's medial protocol requirements. So basically, Notre Dame can host a non-conference game if its opponent follows required guidelines.
If Notre Dame's football team wants to be taken seriously year-in and year-out, it probably needs to join the ACC full-time. Yes, some of its "rivalry" games might have to be altered but it could still keep the yearly USC game while playing a full conference slate and rotating other traditional foes in. The ACC could also make a concession letting Notre Dame keep its TV deal with NBC. That could easily be negotiated and I fail to see a downside for anyone involved.
In that scenario, Notre Dame wouldn't have to justify its independent status when competing for big-time bowl appearances. It would play a conference slate and wouldn't get dinged as harshly as it does now for beating up on cupcakes in South Bend.
Notre Dame obviously wants to keep control of its schedule, that's the main hurdle here. But, frankly, the Irish can still largely do that within the framework of a conference. They're already playing five ACC games a year, what's a few more? Besides, the ACC has an extremely weak bottom tier the program could beat up on every year. It's not like it would be joining the SEC.
Hopefully this represents Notre Dame dipping its toe into the conference waters, not just a one-year dalliance. This should be the future of the program.