The ACC needs to add Notre Dame as a full member to survive. With the latest moves in conference realignment (Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC), getting a “cash cow” like Notre Dame, who is already an affiliate (part) member of the conference.
Contractually, the Fighting Irish have to join the ACC. The only sports they do not play in the ACC in are football and hockey. Of course, they played in the ACC in football in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic last season. That worked out well, as Notre Dame made the ACC Championship Game en route to a College Football Playoff appearance. Notre Dame made more money playing in the ACC last season than playing as an independent. Anyone who thinks Notre Dame is going to join the Big Ten just because it makes sense regionally. The ACC Grant of Rights deal goes through 2036 and because of the ACC bylaws, leaving the ACC would forfeit any television revenue made for the school.
If Notre Dame agrees to join the conference full time, the reason would be is because the ACC would allow Notre Dame to choose the school joining them, making the conference even again. Baylor, Kansas, Navy, West Virginia, and others come to mind.
The one that comes to most people’s minds is West Virginia. The Mountaineers joining would rekindle their “Backyard Brawl” rivalry as well as it being a perfect regional fit. But, adding West Virginia wouldn’t make sense for the ACC just because the move does not add much to the conference.
It is highly unlikely that Notre Dame would pick any of the old Big 12 schools such as Baylor or Kansas.
But an old rival like Navy makes sense for the conference. While new TV markets don’t matter as much in this round of realignment, returning the Washington DC television market would only be beneficial. It would create a clear rivalry for Notre Dame, someone they can play during Thanksgiving weekend. Plus, adding the Army-Navy game every year will make the ACC even more revenue. Here is what the ACC could look like in football with Navy and Notre Dame:
North Carolina State
Moving to regional divisions benefits the ACC when it comes to eliminating long travels. The north division, outside of Navy and Virginia is essentially an old Big East. Clemson will likely own the football in the south division but will have to go through Florida State, Miami, and North Carolina.