FORT WAYNE — Notre Dame’s access and number of times it can play in the Orange Bowl is set.
The ACC and Orange Bowl committee announced Thursday a 12-year agreement, which begins in 2014, that will pit the ACC champion against either Notre Dame or a representative from the Big Ten or SEC in a game that will be played on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day and be televised on ESPN when the four-team college football playoff begins.
The ACC team’s opponent will be the highest-ranked team in a to-be-determined formula that will select teams for the new four-team playoff.
The deal limits Notre Dame to two Orange Bowl appearances and guarantees the Big Ten and SEC a spot in the game a minimum of three times during the 12-year period when the game is not part of the playoff system. Notre Dame does not have a minimum number of times it has to play in the Orange Bowl in the agreement.
The Irish could also receive an at-large spot in another top-tier or current BCS bowl game in years they do not qualify for the playoffs or the Orange Bowl, according to Notre Dame spokesman John Heisler.
“This will be the first time that we’re actually tied into one of the (top-tier bowl) games specifically, with not every year with that being an option but at least for a couple of times,” Heisler said. “We can qualify as a quote-unquote at-large team in those top-tier games in the years when we aren’t in the Orange Bowl.
“In addition to that, and this is the key part with the ACC, we will be a part of their whole bowl rotation and be part of those.”
On Sept. 12, Notre Dame agreed to move all of its sports, except for football and hockey, from the Big East to the ACC with the Irish receiving access to the Orange Bowl and the other bowls the ACC is tied into.
The Orange Bowl setup could become more complicated when it is determined what bowls and when bowls will be part of the championship semifinals and title game. The Orange Bowl is expected to be part of the semifinals rotation, and in those years, it would not be a stand-alone bowl game but would only be part of the three-game playoff.
“It is still a great option for us,” Heisler said. “If you are not in the playoff or not in the Orange Bowl, you are still going to have some access to some big-time games.”