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Notre Dame AD: Independent status 'more valuable than ever'

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Notre Dame athletic director Pete Bevacqua feels great about the school's independent status following college football's latest realignment.

"We are now in as good of a position as we've ever been in the modern era of college football to be independent," Bevacqua said Thursday, according to ESPN's Heather Dinich. "You see all the conference realignment, you see everything that's happened, I think our position as being independent in football quite frankly is certainly more unique than ever, but also more valuable than ever."

Bevacqua began his role as Notre Dame AD this week, replacing Jack Swarbrick. The Fighting Irish extended their TV deal with NBC last season through 2029 and are reportedly expected to receive around $50 million per year. NBC has held the rights to Notre Dame football since 1991.

Notre Dame also has the potential to earn roughly $18 million per season as part of the CFP's new six-year agreement, which kicks off in 2026, sources told Dinich. Additionally, the school reportedly can receive a $6-million financial incentive for independent teams that reach the College Football Playoff. The CFP is expanding to 12 teams for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, and it'll have a 14-team playoff format beginning in 2026.

"Our dollar figure that's derived from the CFP for us is quite strong, plus the fact we have the ability to earn additional revenue in the instances where we make the CFP, which puts us in an even stronger position," Bevacqua added. "So when you step back and look at the totality of those three elements - the NBC relationship, the ACC Network relationship, and the CFP - we're in an incredibly strong position relative to the rest of the college sports world."

A major recent realignment in college sports saw Texas and Oklahoma go from the Big 12 to the SEC and USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington land in the Big Ten starting in 2024, among other moves. Oregon State and Washington State were the only Pac-12 teams left, and they'll also be eligible to receive the $6-million playoff incentive for independent schools if they don't join a new conference, notes Dinich.

The ACC's future is also uncertain with Clemson and Florida State eyeing a potential exit from the conference. Both schools are entangled in lawsuits with the league. Notre Dame played a full ACC schedule during the COVID-19 season in 2020.

The Fighting Irish have made two CFP appearances in 2018 and 2020. They're 19-7 in two full seasons with Marcus Freeman as head coach.

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