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: Sep 7, 2010
Posted on: October 7, 2011 1:05 am

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

I'm going to try to break this down very briefly.
ND football has lost a lot of glamour because of the fact that older people are dying. 18 yr-olds don't care.
Yes, Brian Kelly is doing a bang-up recruiting job, and ND may be returning to consistent top 10 status. But not this year. I called ND 8-4 before the season, and I guarantee that!
ND fans don't understand that the rest of FB fans resent the special treatment ND has gotten from the media for decades. Fans of the SEC, Big 10, PAC 12 , would never allow ANY special treatment of ND!And I don't understand the logic I'm hearing from possible ND scenarios. Right now, ND is independent in FB, and Big East in Bball. But some of you want to flippy-flop, put ND FB in one conference, and ND basketball in another! WHY?

Since: Aug 23, 2006
Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:53 am

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

Please. Conferences have begged Notre Dame and the Irish have rightly and consistently said no.  There's no bigger "get" out there.  As for the special status ending, you forget about the BCS bowls the Irish have played in since, not to mention getting screwed out of the National Championship in '93.

Independence now!  Independence forever! 

Since: Sep 7, 2010
Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:49 am

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

ND to the Big East makes some sense at first glance, but PITT and SYR are gone. So what's left for ND FB? Is a network going to pay big bucks for ND vs. Rutgers, UCONN , CINN, LOU, and S FL?
There is going to be a hybrid between Big East and Big 12, ACC (already started), or Big 10. Big East might disappear. SEC might take WVU if MIZZOU won't go SEC. FB is driving the bus, forget about the Big Conferences tolerating an all-baskeball northeastern conference centerd around MSG.   Villanova, Seton Hall, DePaul, St. John's, are going to have to go MVC, Atlantic 10, CUSA, Horizon, or MAC. That's not exactly killing Butler!

Since: Sep 7, 2010
Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:34 am

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

The SEC, PAC-12, and Big 10 wouldn't even consider ND as football only.
Would the proud basketball conference ACC, which just picked off SYR and PITT, let ND roam in Bball? Doubt it. Fans would scream!I don't think ND wants to play TX and OK every year in FB, but if the Big 12 forms some kind of Big East-Big 12 hybrid, so ND only plays one a year, that might work.
But can anyone name a TV network that would be happy with a lot of ND football vs. Baylor, Iowa St, Kansas , KS ST, and TxTech?
ND is going to have to join reality and go all-in on a conference. ND's special status passport ended in the 80's when they got thrashed by Miami football!

Since: Mar 25, 2008
Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:31 am

Big-Time conferences won't take ND without FB

Accepting ND without FB is just a sign of weakness for a league.

The Big East had b-ball only schools, so that made some sense, although everyone knew they were desperate for someone with a name outside the Northest when they signed ND up.

The Basketball TV draw just isn't good enough to make it worth it for most leagues

P12, B10 and SEC would never go for it.  ACC wan't because they don't want to look weak when compared to the other 3.

B12 is desperate and weak enough, they may go for it.

What's wrong with ND staying with the Big East anyway?

Even without FB, the league still is full of teams ESPN loves to pimp every single week.

Since: Mar 25, 2008
Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:26 am



If Jim Delaney had half a brain in his head, he would of signed Missouri to the conference when Nebraska came over. By doing that, he not only would have gotten a school in Missouri that now in hindsight would of been more excited in the Big Ten rather than the SEC as well as having a 13-team league and a hell of case to present Notre Dame to become the 14th team.
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.

Since: Jul 22, 2010
Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:14 am

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

Interestingly, if the Big East had forced Notre Dame's hand, this wouldn't even be a conversation.  The Big East would not be losing schools if Notre Dame played their football there.  I would bet that none of their previous defections (Miami, VT, BC) would have occured with Notre truly in the fold.  On the other hand, if the Big East forced out Notre Dame's other sports there would be less uncertainty as to where the Big East stands as an athletic conference.

Since: Aug 23, 2006
Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:06 am

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

As long as Notre Dame manages to continue to improve their football team and eventually manages a season where they consistently win against the opponents that they hand pick because of history or because of proximity or in some cases, vanity they can and will remain independent in football ONLY.  

I don't see any reason why Notre Dame won't join a conference like the ACC for their non-football sports - it's a good fit for their non-football sports except for hockey and they could potentially join Hockey East I bet in a heartbeat (I bet they would add them if Notre Dame simply asked). 

As long as NBC continues to bankroll Notre Dame's football program through television broadcasts on their network (I'm not sure when the contract expires but I believe that there is a lot of time still left on the last contract signed) Notre Dame will continue to remain independent in football.  The only way not being independent hurts Notre Dame is at the end of a bad season or at the end of a mediocre season.  Due to nostalgia and history alone Notre Dame will continue to be invited to bowl games as long as they post a .500 or better record.  Between the NBC money and the fact that Notre Dame does not have to share any of their revenue with anybody there is no reason for Notre Dame to look elsewhere for membership in a conference. 

However, if Notre Dame continues to slip or remain mediocre as they have pretty much ever since Lou Holtz retired as coach (and arguably a little before he retired) they could potentially lose their NBC deal.  A loss of the NBC deal followed by the inability to sign another deal with another major network (I can't think of any other network taking Notre Dame other than maybe Fox) will spell disaster for Notre Dame independence.  
However, Kelly appears to have the Irish at least headed in the right direction but that being said, he's virtually at the same spot in his career as head coach as prior coaches at Notre Dame with next year being the critical year.  If Notre Dame takes a step backwards next season and does not move forward it could lead to what has happened to other Notre Dame coaches who are prematurely fired just prior to taking a big step forward with the program.  I firmly believe that Charlie Weis was fired one season too early.  With the combination of Clausen (if he returned for his senior year) plus the existing talent I think that Weis could have made a run at a very strong season - thus saving his job and keeping the program moving forward - but this is a point that can be argued until we are blue in the face because it really is an opinion because it never materialized.   For the sake of the Irish they had better keep the faith and pray that they will move forward in these next two years because anything else could spawn disaster for Notre Dame.  A loss of the NBC deal would likely mean that the Irish will have to move into a conference and let the realignment games continue!

Since: Jun 26, 2011
Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:02 am

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

If Jim Delaney had half a brain in his head, he would of signed Missouri to the conference when Nebraska came over. By doing that, he not only would have gotten a school in Missouri that now in hindsight would of been more excited in the Big Ten rather than the SEC as well as having a 13-team league and a hell of case to present Notre Dame to become the 14th team.

Since: Jul 22, 2007
Posted on: October 6, 2011 11:54 pm

Notre Dame's football independence now at risk

Notre Dame should join the Big 10, geographically it makes sense.
I would have said join the Big East but after BC, Pitt, Miami & 'Cuse left for the ACC it just doesn't make much sense.
It's too bad BC & Miami started the exodus to the ACC because the Big East could have been a great conference with all those teams plus adding in Notre Dame.
Even better would be havimg Umass join too once they move up to 1A then geographically they would have a conference spanning from Massachusetts to Indiana and they might even be able to pick up some MAC teams while they were at it like Miami or Bowling Green - perennial MAC powers.

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