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Notre Dame Wants to Triple Its Football Media Rights Fees

  • Fighting Irish want $65 million to $75 million annually for next deal.
  • Notre Dame falling behind power conferences in media arms.
Notre Dame
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame will be seeking to triple its football rights fees to $65 million to $75 million annually during its next cycle of media negotiations, sources told Front Office Sports. But if the Fighting Irish want that kind of money, they might have to give up their cherished independence — and finally join a power conference.

The question of maintaining independence is key for Notre Dame’s next TV contract, as the current long-standing partnership with NBC Sports expires after the 2024 college football season. At its start in 1991, the Notre Dame-NBC partnership was ground-breaking and innovative. Irish games were nationally televised on broadcast TV; the exposure and marketing opportunities provided by NBC were priceless.

But Notre Dame’s current annual payments now lag behind the lucrative rights fees of power conference schools. 

The Fighting Irish receive somewhere in the mid-$30 million range for overall rights fees: $22 million per year from their NBC football-only contract, as well as about $11 million annually from the ACC, in which the Irish compete for all other sports. 

The Big Ten’s new mid-$7 billion, seven-year deal with NBC, Fox Sports, and CBS Sports will eventually dish out up to $90 million to schools like Ohio State and Michigan. That gives them a big financial advantage over the Irish. 

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“My big-picture thought is that Notre Dame will need a conference to support a three-time bump long term,” said Patrick Crakes, the former Fox Sports executive turned media consultant. “I think either the Big Ten or SEC would do. Also, don’t rule out a third new conference in several years. A lot of assumptions are falling apart as pay-TV-bundle economics go flat.”

The wild card is incoming Notre Dame athletic director Pete Bevacqua, the NBC Sports chairman who will succeed current AD Jack Swarbrick in 2024. 

Both Bevacqua and his father are Notre Dame alumni. He views the role as a “dream job.” But he was also known to be a risk-taker. Could he be the power broker that finally marries Notre Dame football to a power conference? 

Andrew Brandt, the former Green Bay Packers executive, believes Notre Dame will continue to choose the independent route.

“With the steep escalation that marquee college football rights fees are undergoing, it is not surprising that Notre Dame has trebling as its target. If the choice is to pursue that — or get folded into the Big Ten deal — my sense is that they will stay independent.”

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