USA Today

hatch.nathanACC, Notre Dame deal was long time in the making: Everyone, it seems, wanted Notre Dame. The Big East would have liked to have kept the Irish even as a member in all sports but football. The Big Ten had an offer on the table in the late 1990s and still never really closed the door. The Big 12 was making inquiries.

And why not? No college brand name resonates quite like Notre Dame. And when the white puffs of smoke finally became visible on Wednesday, the Atlantic Coast Conference emerged as the new landing spot for the America’s best-known Catholic school.

While the announcement may have caught many in college athletes, and even some on the Notre Dame campus, by surprise, the move was in the works for more than a year.

“In some ways this has been an evolution,” said Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, a former Notre Dame provost, dean and faculty member and a key player in the negotiations that landed the Fighting Irish. “These are ongoing discussions. It’s a major change after 60 years for the ACC. But we determined it was a rare opportunity.”

Hatch and Clemson president James Barker, along with commissioner John Swofford, were the lead negotiators with Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick and president John Jenkins. Hatch and Barker are part of the ACC’s special 4-4-4 committee that has been looking at expansion. The name comes from its makeup: four university presidents, four athletics directors and four faculty members.…

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