A growing number of coaches believe that all independents, especially Notre Dame, should be in a conference.
"I don't think any program should be treated differently," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said Tuesday. "Notre Dame is a great school, but we all need to be in the same boat [having to play a conference championship game] as far as the playoff."
ACC coaches Beamer, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, Clemson's Dabo Swinney, Pittsburgh's Pat Narduzzi and NC State's Dave Doeren all told ESPN that Notre Dame should be in a conference or have to play 13 games per season. They believe all of the Power 5 conferences and teams should have to play a league title game so the College Football Playoff selection committee can judge them equally.
Notre Dame, which is an ACC member in all sports but football, has never indicated it would give up its independence. However, if the Fighting Irish join a football conference before 2027 (when the ACC's grant of rights and media-rights deals expire), Notre Dame is contractually bound to join the ACC.
"I agree 100 percent that Notre Dame should be in a conference," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "It's the only way to a level playing field.
"Playing in a conference, whether it was my time in the SEC or ACC, you knew whoever you played could beat you because of the familiarity between the teams. I would love to see Notre Dame step in our league. You're either in or you're out."
Cutcliffe previously coached at Ole Miss and served as an assistant coach at Tennessee and Notre Dame.
Swinney said he "absolutely" believes all independents -- Notre Dame, BYU and Army -- should play in a conference to be included in the College Football Playoff.
"You have to be in a conference to play in the playoffs," Swinney said. "All [playoff] teams should play 13 [games]. If you're not in a conference, then you have to play 13."
Added FSU's Fisher: "Everyone should play the same number of games. You need uniformity."
The issue of uniformity about the top tier of CFP-eligible programs also extends to the Big 12, a conference that will continue to operate without a league title game.
A number of Big 12 coaches, including Baylor's Art Briles, Kansas State's Bill Snyder and West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen, told ESPN last week they believe their league should add a conference title game.
The Big 12 is the only Power 5 conference that doesn't host a title game. Missouri Tigers coach Gary Pinkel, whose school changed conference affiliation from the Big 12 to the SEC three years ago, said last week the system should be as consistent as possible for every team involved.
"You have some people that don't play championship games because now they only have 10 teams," Pinkel said. "I get that, but if down the road, you really want to do it right, I think, everybody's in a league and everybody plays in a championship game, ideally."
NC State's Doeren, who coached in the Big 12 for four years as an assistant at Kansas, joked that he has a solution for Notre Dame and the Big 12.
"Maybe Notre Dame can just play the winner of the Big 12," Doeren said.