Blog Entry

Picking the independents

Posted on: June 9, 2009 9:19 am
Edited on: June 9, 2009 4:21 pm

When senior citizens complain, they tend to whine about wanting their juice, maybe turning up the heat, or, for gosh sakes, somebody find the remote. Jeopardy's on. 

Joe Paterno is one of those senior citizens. He also tends to whine. Recently he chose the Big Ten as his target. Late in life other 82-year-olds want their favorite chair, pillow or blanket. The Penn State coach prefers Big Ten expansion. Syracuse, Rutgers and Pittsburgh are his favorites. Pretty much anyone but Notre Dame.

The fact that no one of consequence even commented on JoePa's ramblings confirmed that they were just that -- ramblings. Paterno might want it his way but he's got it all wrong.

The only way Big Ten expansion works is if Notre Dame is the pick. Ten years ago, the conference (Big 11, really) walked down the aisle hand-in-hand with ND. A marriage seemed imminent. Then the engagement was abruptly broken off when the Notre Dame's board of trustees reiterated its preference to stay independent.

Since then, the former lovers' prospects have dimmed. Big Ten football has regressed recently. Despite two BCS bowls this decade, Notre Dame has seen some of its darkest days since its last appearance in 2006. Coach Charlie Weis' job hangs by a thread. He is the program's fifth coach since '96. The last national championship was 21 years ago.

Still, ND retains favored status in the BCS. The public at large didn't know about ND's almost special dispensation when it came to the BCS. It had arguably the easiest entry into a major bowl -- basically win nine and finish in the top 12.

 Notre Dame also happened to keep all the bowl money itself (minus expenses, of course). Why join a conference? It gets $4.5 million for playing in a BCS bowl. Even in years when ND doesn't go to the BCS bowl, it receives a $1.4 million check just for participating in the system. The deal with NBC pays it another $8 million per year. At least. 

That's why Notre Dame is the only school that makes sense for Big Ten expansion. The conference could use the money. Notre Dame is a ratings winner whether it is 7-1 or 1-7. People watch the same way they watch dogs fighting in the middle of the street.

It interests us.

It's easy to see why the trustees want to stay independent. Why split all that money 12 ways? Of course, if Notre Dame joined the Big Ten it could dictate some favorable terms. For example, it is assumed the school wouldn't be sharing any of that NBC money.

You can also see why Notre Dame expansion makes sense to the Big Ten. Adding the Irish would boost the Big Ten's TV ratings, its bowl coffers (at some point) and its profile. Think how the fledgling Big Ten Network could benefit. There would be a central location to catch up on everything Notre Dame.

Big Ten expansion into South Bend would be easier on both ends to recruiters. For existing Big Ten coaches who could tell prospects, "Come play against Notre Dame," and for Notre Dame which could tell prospects, "Come win the Big Ten."

None of this is going to happen soon. Commissioner Jim Delany recently called Big Ten expansion a "back burner issue." While the conference's football prospects might be down, things are always cyclical in college football. Notre Dame, as you will read below, is expected by some to get back to a BCS bowl this season.

For now, a 12-team Big Ten with Notre Dame is a conversation piece. It might never happen. The economy might worsen and it might be inevitable. There is one thing conclusion when it comes to the subject:

Please don't listen to JoePa.

Picking the independents...

1. Notre Dame -- It's all in place -- the schedule, the front-line talent, the network, the hype. Forget all that. ND goes nowhere this season unless Jimmy Clausen makes the next logical step in his progression. The junior improved last season adding 18 pounds and throwing for 25 touchdowns. It all came together in the bowl game when his only four incompletions against Hawaii were drops. With better protection, a better running game, better receivers and a better outlook, Clausen should begin to fulfill the promise he brought to South Bend three years ago. Whether it's enough to save Charlie Weis' job is another issue. It's BCS bowl or bust for The Big Guy. Weis will ride as far as Clausen can take him. The kid will benefit from the return of four starters on the offensive line. Experts have fallen in love with receivers Michael Floyd and Golden Tate. The running game (No. 100 nationally) has to get better with the arrival of freshman Cierre Wood. Clausen can give Wood a few pointers on how to approach that freshman season. The quarterback had his ego knocked back to The Stone Age in 2007-2008. But, seemingly, Clausen has lived and learned. With his body still intact from all those sacks, Clausen should thrive. But will it be enough to win at least nine games?

2. Navy -- It was hard to place Navy second behind ND. If everything goes right for the Middies, they could be the best of the independents. They won one more than Notre Dame last season. The last two seasons they've been competitive with Notre Dame which is important after four decades of losses. The prospects are bright for '09. In his first full season as head coach, Ken Niumatalolo won eight games, a sixth consecutive Commander-In-Chief's Trophy and got Navy to a bowl. The best thing to happen to Navy, in a weird way, might have been an injury to dangerous quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada. That allowed budding talent Ricky Dobbs to start four games in '08. Dobbs wants to be president someday (after his Navy commitment, of course). His moves could make the triple option even more dangerous. The front seven is the strength of the defense. Remember that you read it here first -- in June: Look out Ohio State and Pittsburgh. Navy visits both in the first three weeks of the season. Dobbs and the option are coming.

3. Army -- Good things are being said and written about new coach Rich Ellerson. If he can transfer his magic to this run-down program, then ... well let's wait and see. There have been 12 consecutive losing seasons. The Army brass has made bad decision after bad decision. There is no reason that the Black Knights shouldn't at least be on a par with Air Force and Navy, but somehow Army has sunk to the depths of Division I-A. Ellerson comes from I-AA Cal Poly bringing the triple option on offense and double-eagle flex formation on defense (think Arizona's "Desert Swarm"). Army won't go to a bowl but it needs to build enough momentum to give Navy a game on Dec. 12.



Since: Sep 4, 2006
Posted on: July 10, 2009 4:28 pm

Picking the independents

Sorry that vent was directed at the total idiot, CUBNATION67.

Since: Sep 4, 2006
Posted on: July 8, 2009 1:05 pm

Picking the independents

Do you honestly beleive the drivel, you just posted?. Or are you just completley ate up with the dumb a$$?.As much as I hate to respond to your hyperbole, I JUST COULD NOT LET IT PASS.Please do not bother to respond, because I will not reply

Since: Jun 16, 2009
Posted on: July 1, 2009 12:11 am

Picking the independents

Navy: Will be the Top Team of the Independents.

Notrre dame: Clausen is an exceptional QB.. Notre Dame hs the athletes every year.. But what theys still lack is a real Coach that can lead them.. Charlie Stinky Tuna is not the leader for the Irish.. He is a football Nerd that cannot relate to his College team.. I would think that even the Washington Huskies are going to give ND a run for there money..

Since: Mar 14, 2007
Posted on: June 28, 2009 12:34 pm

Picking the independents

Why is it that the Domers are allowed to be an Indie in football, but yet they had to join one in basketball. I think that they should be part of a conference in the Big Ten so then they could have 2 seperate divisions and have a conference championship.

Since: Mar 25, 2009
Posted on: June 25, 2009 8:44 am

Picking the independents

Smart sports fans stopped listening to JoePa pre terrorism.

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: June 24, 2009 10:13 am

Picking the independents

Listen Dodd....when you are 82 years old and are the winningest coach in college football history, then you can make your smartass comments.  Till then shut up and continue to do what you do best......which is nothing.

Since: Jun 15, 2009
Posted on: June 15, 2009 3:16 am

Lies, lies, and more lies

There is this myth out there, bordering on slander, that ND has a road to the BCS that would be easier than it would be were i to join a BCS conference (were there such a thing, and were I in a position of authority, I would consider removing Mr. Dodd's journalistic license for this kind of lie, it's egregious and only serves to formant hate).  Putting scheduling aside (which is at best a disputed issue), ND has the same requirements as any other team to get a non-automatic berth.  The difference is that the bowls themselves want ND.  ND is popular both as a team to like, and as a team to hate, and this is the reason ND in practice has a lower bar to meet.  It has nothing to do with a "sweetheart deal".  On paper, i has an "automatic berth" if it finishes in the top eight, but face it:  if they finished in the top eight, it is almost impossible to consider a situation where ND would not be chosen for an at large bid under exactly the same rules as a non-BCS conference team.  Remember there are *ten* total available slots.  Finally, any member of a conference (particularly a BCS conference) has an advantage to getting into a BCS bowl, in fact, if anyone has a "sweatheart deal", it is the members of the BCS conferences, who can finish outside the top twenty, and still force the BCS bowls to give them a spot.  The fairest thing would be to seed the top ten schools (which would often leave out winners of BCS conferences, but too bad, that conference is too crappy to earn the spot).  Granted, this would close the door to BCS bowls scheduling matchups people actually want to see, but it would be the fairest.  As it is however, the system favors the members of weaker BCS conferences, and puts everyone else at a disadvantage.  Finally, if there is ever to be real fairness in the system, the top teams, and top conferences are going to have to play one another.  Furthermore, since conferences play most games one another, and there are so few games in a given season, it would be wonderful if there were ten or so independent teams who together were representative of a strong conference, and if these teams then played the conference members of their relative strength.  Why?  Because until this happens, there are no objective ways to compare members of different conferences.  Check out the facts (with an open, active mind) at:

psu 1
Since: Jan 8, 2007
Posted on: June 14, 2009 11:22 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Jan 4, 2009
Posted on: June 13, 2009 4:08 am

Picking the independents

i like the idea, but put penn st in the east and mich st in the west, that way all the heavy weights are in one confr, to me this would make one hell of a big ten championship title game

Since: Mar 30, 2007
Posted on: June 12, 2009 2:40 pm

Could We Get One Ounce of Journalistic Integrity

I am an ND grad.  Yes, we have stunk it up for the better part of 16 years.  Yes, Weis' quotes drive me nuts with his "Jersey Tough" bravado.  Disclosure, I am also from Jersey.  It all drives me nuts but if a National Sportswriter is going to take pot shots at the program, please get the facts right.

1) Notre Dame has no more special preference than any other of the 54 teams in D-1 that are not in a BCS conference.  In fact, you could argue that they have it harder to qualify for a BCS game.  They must finish in the Top 8 of the BCS standings to be eligible for a BCS game.  If you are part of a mid-major conference, you must finish in the Top 12.

2) Yes, Notre Dame receives $4.5 million when it plays in a BCS game, versus the $14 million a conference receives.  Plus it receives a $1.3 million distribution when it does not play.  The math is simple.  Teams in the best conferences, regardless of their final record, average $4-5 million in Bowl Revenue Sharing money if their conference places more than one team in a BCS bowl; like the Big 12 or SEC last year.  The worst BCS teams earn about $2 million in Bowl Revenue Sharing Money if they are part of a conference with a down year.  Yes, Notre Dame has been an embarassment, but their total BCS money has been no more than the Baylor's and Dukes of the world (before jumping on me, I respect both institutions but their programs historically have struggled).  Thus, the distribution that Notre Dame receives is meant to parallel that which any school receives in a BCS conference.

3) Notre Dame has its easiest schedule in at least a decade, I admit that.  I guarantee it will finish Top 50 in the nation at worst in terms of SOS.  Their schedule is consistently Top 20 or Top 30.  People see the Navy's, Army's and Washington State's of the world and just assume the schedule is easy.  Well, keep in mind, Notre Dame does not play D-1AA teams.  Also, keep in mind, because they are not in a conference, many of their tough games occurr early in the season before conference schedules start.  They are taking on Michigan State and Michigan every year; coupled with the occassional Georgia Tech or Penn State before October even arrives.  Most (not all), other programs have 3-4 automatic D-1AA wins during this time.  I am not saying their schedule is like playing the SEC East, but if you look at Sagarin's rankings, their SOS is normally right in the middle of the 66 BCS schools.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or