Blog Entry

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

Posted on: October 6, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 5:43 pm
When news broke Thursday that TCU was joining the Big 12 Conference instead of the Big East, it was just another domino in the latest craze sweeping across America: Conference realignment!

Another piece that might be teetering: Notre Dame.

For the Big East, losing TCU is another sucker punch to the groin or -- as Illinois’ Jonathan Brown prefers -- a knee to the groin.

Sure technically the Big East never really had TCU since the Horned Frogs weren’t officially joining the league until July 1, 2012, but the loss of what could have been is even more devastating for the Big East.

In the matter of weeks, the Big East has lost Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC and now TCU to the Big 12. And if Missouri leaves for the SEC, sources have told the Big 12 will likely add three more schools to get to 12 members. At the top of that list, sources said, is Louisville, along with a combination of BYU, West Virginia, Cincinnati or Tulane.

Losing Louisville and West Virginia or Cincinnati would likely be a fatal blow to the Big East's football BCS status. As damaging as these defections are to the Big East, it could have an even greater impact on the behemoth of college football.

Even before man invented fire, the Fighting Irish’s football program has been an independent. And Notre Dame plans on staying an independent until the galaxy explodes -- or until the Big East implodes -- whichever happens first.

So while the Big East’s pulse continues to weaken, Notre Dame could be forced to join a conference. The Fighting Irish have enjoyed the benefit of remaining a football independent, while their non-football sports competed in the Big East. Those days could be numbered.

"Certainly the factors that have contributed to the larger conference realignment continue to exist," Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick told the Associated Press on Wednesday, a day before the news about TCU leaving to the Big 12. "And we’re doing the same thing we’ve done throughout, monitoring them closely, and hoping that the Big East stays a vibrant and successful partner for us."

But if there’s no Big East, then Notre Dame becomes the Holy Grail of college football. The Big 12, the Big Ten, the ACC and the SEC would add the Fighting Irish yesterday. Heck, even the Pac-12’s Larry Scott would find a way to bring the Irish on board if he could.

I’ve maintained that as long as Notre Dame has a conference home to put its non-football or Olympic sports (men’s basketball, women’s basketball, etc.) in it will never join a conference. But things are about to get interesting for Notre Dame.

If the Big East no longer exists, Notre Dame will have two options: Join the Big 12/Big Ten/ACC/SEC as a full member or stay independent in football and join one of those conferences with its non-football sports.

It will depend on how bad Notre Dame cherishes its football independence, because I’m sure one of those four conferences would prefer Notre Dame as a non-football member (and the guarantee of Notre Dame being on those future football schedules) to having Notre Dame in another league.

Before TCU and the Big 12’s announcement on Thursday, Swarbrick said Wednesday Notre Dame needed to continue to support the league.

"They’re [the Big East] working on additions," he said. "You got to wait until the whole picture is shaped to really have a feel for it, for what that option is like. Just continue to support them and be involved in their planning and hope they wind up in a great place.

"It's great to make plans. It’s whether the people you might be interested in or the circumstances will allow you to achieve those plans. But certainly the way the conference is thinking and what it’s trying to achieve are consistent with what I think it needs to do."

That was Swarbrick’s view Wednesday. That all changed Thursday with TCU headed to the Big 12 and there are likely more changes ahead. The question remains: will it be enough to force Notre Dame to give up its independence?


Since: Oct 12, 2011
Posted on: October 13, 2011 7:15 pm

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

GoBlue, it's not just the TV money that keeps ND out of a conference although it is the main reason.  They like to think of themselves as a national program playing a national schedule.  If they join a conference something would have to give with their schedule.  They would only have room for 4 non-conference games.  What would they give up?  Michigan?  USC?  BC?  Navy?  Michagan State?  Purdue?  Pitt?

There are only 2 reasons why they would join a conference 1 - they are no longer able to have their own tv deal, 2 - they have no access to a national title as an independant.  The first won't happen until at least 2016, I doubt the second will ever happen.  The bowls and/or playoff system will find a way to include them no matter what. Remember when you had to have 7 wins to be bowl eligble until the year ND only had 6 wins but the Insight Bowl (I think that's right) wanted them and suddenly it was ok to only have 6 wins?

Whether you think it's right or not the fact is ND is special in the eyes of TV and the bowls.  Until that changes don't expect them to join a conference - ever. 

Since: Sep 29, 2006
Posted on: October 12, 2011 12:52 pm

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

I'm pretty sure there is enough optimism in South Bend right now that you won't see ND joining any conference any time soon.  Someone hit the nail on the head when they said it would happen when it was in NDs best interest.  It's not now, and it won't be for the forseeable future, either.

Since: Sep 29, 2006
Posted on: October 12, 2011 12:44 pm

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

 you are gods gift to college football

Your words, not mine.

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:37 am

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

The one thing that I haven't heard is what if the Big East could convince Notre Dame to joing the conference as a full member?  They bring their football program on board and add the likes of UCF, Air Force, Navy (who ND already plays annually), and now I think they keep WVU and I think the Big East definitely keeps their BCS status.  If they need an extra carrot I bet Boise St would listen.

Perhaps this isn't TOO far fetched as the Big East is reeling and they could allow ND to keep their TV rights and it's earnings to themself with little to no sharing.  ND gets to keep their pockets lined and the Big East gets to stay in existance with it's BCS status.  IF and a big IF this could happen I think the BE has to stay at 10 football members so ND can still play their non conference schedule such as Michigan and Michigan State, etc.


Since: Jul 15, 2011
Posted on: October 7, 2011 6:49 pm

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

Gnat, I think your idea is good, but only if ND has no intention whatsoever of joining a 16-team superconference.  ND must decide if they either want to be part of one of the four superconferences, or go it alone.  If the decide to go it alone, CUSA is an excellent idea, but if they want to get into one of the four Big Tents they need to pick one and make it happen.  Obviously, the conference that wins Notre Dame will expect (demand) their other sports tag along.

Since: Mar 26, 2011
Posted on: October 7, 2011 6:46 pm

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

It's almost too obvious to note:  Notre Dame will give up its independence in football only when it decides doing so is in its best interest.  It will join no conference where it will not have the reasonable expectation of being the champion every year.  So, even though it makes the most sense, ND will not join the Big Ten--too much strong competition on all fronts.  But, as an independent, its stock will continue to decline.  ND has not been relevant in the national picture for more than fifteen years, and even the contract with NBC has not been able to change that. Eventually, ND will figure out that star recruits are not interested in playing for also-rans and for the glory of a long-storied history ("storied" being the operative term here) and join a conference.  But, whether or not the football program is ever able to return to prominence without a conference affiliation remains to be seen.  


Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: October 7, 2011 6:30 pm

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

Acadamics has never boosted ticket sales or increased the value of a television contract.

Dude, while that is a true statement, you need to keep two things in mind:

1.  The people making the decisions are University Presidents.  Academic prestige is pretty important to them.

2.  Athletic budgets are measured in $ millions.  Academic research budgets are measured in $ billions, so you can bet your ass that academic considerations are a major factor.

Since: Jun 8, 2011
Posted on: October 7, 2011 6:14 pm

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

Sorry if this has already been posted, but if I were the Conference USA commish, I would be courting ND pretty heavily for all of their non-football sports.  I have to beleive that all of this conference realignment stuff is temporary, so having access to a media darling can only help the league's image and prestige.

Since: Jul 15, 2011
Posted on: October 7, 2011 4:58 pm

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

IMO gipper, the B1G will not go to 13/14/15.  First, they learned their lesson with odd numbers, and secondly they're not offended by anybody else (SEC/B12/Pac12) being at 13/14.  The big issue comes when sombody goes to 15/16.  At that point, their hand is forced, and they must pick up the leftovers (possibly ND, if they ask nicely).

Since: Jun 26, 2011
Posted on: October 7, 2011 4:29 pm

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

Missouri presents a big-fat zero to ND.
If numbers mattered to ND at all, they would have joined as #12 when they were approached a few years ago.
So, clearly, whether or not the B10 has 12 or 13 is immaterial.
ND would be used to bring in a #14, not the other way around.


While Missouri may be down this season, don't count out the recent success they've had. Notre Dame would not have joined the Big Ten as the 12th team because they still had a lucrative contract with NBC and didnt want to risk losing all that $$$$$$$. By bringing in Missouri with Nebraska, Delaney could present the case to Notre Dame that recruiting markets in Kansas City and around the middle of the country have opened up. The other key point to look at would be the Big Ten Network. By bringing in Mizzou and Nebraska, your taking a chunk of the former Big 12 North and putting it in the Big Ten. If they were to get both those teams, they would get the Omaha and Kansas City markets which while not New York or L.A. are still valuable. By doing this, the case is presented to Notre Dame that they could make the same amount of money if not more by joining the Big Ten and the BTN instead of staying independent and remaining on NBC.

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