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: Jun 11, 2009
Posted on: June 11, 2009 5:13 pm

Picking the independents

Joe Pa is losing it.  He used to be a guy that thought only about the school and others.  Now he seems like a frustrated old man that constantly wants his way and wants to push his thoughts on everyone else.  Rutgers, Syracuse and Pitt do not make any sense for the big 10. N.D. does make sense - and I agree with Mr Dodd that it probably will not happen any time soon.  I dislike N.D. alot. I hope they do not make a major BCS bowl this season with that lame schedule they have. I would love to see that NBC contract backfire on them - with more losing seasons from N.D.  I think eventully when the NCAA does go to some type of playoff N.D. will be forced to join a conference.  How many years from now though we do not know.  We will wait and see.

Since: Oct 31, 2006
Posted on: June 11, 2009 12:20 pm

Picking the independents

Dodd was obviously talking about those who actually have the power to expand and condense conferences, namely Big Ten, Big Eastm and Notre Dame big wigs, not "CBS" "ESPN" and "major and minor newspapers"

Since: May 18, 2009
Posted on: June 11, 2009 11:14 am

Picking the independents

They should put Notre Dame in the Big East not the Big Ten.Exactly.  Notre Dame is in the Big East for Basketball and Baseball.  Plus if Notre Dame went to the Big East then they would be a contender in the conference nearly every year.  Their only competition would be West Virginia, Cincinatti, and maybe S. Florida and Rutgers.  Whereas in the Big 11 Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Wisconsin usually have teams capable of possibly winning the conference.

Since: Jan 17, 2009
Posted on: June 11, 2009 11:10 am

Picking the independents

Do the Big 12 a favor and take Iowa State already.


Since: Sep 30, 2008
Posted on: June 11, 2009 9:21 am

Picking the independents

but if Bill Lynch made those comments ESPN and CBS wouldn't even had been there for the presser. Unfortunately JoPa is one hell of a coach but in the Big Ten and even across NCAAFB the decisions are being made by Delaney. He probably the major proponent of why there is no playoff. This is true. But then again, who would listen to Bill Lynch about anything regarding the Big-Ten. A failed Ball State coach that somehow ends up at a Big-Ten school and ruins Indiana when they finally began to build up a descent program under Terry Hoeppner doesn't deserve any media recognition. Now regarding the independents, Notre Dame has a real possibility of a 9 or 10 win season, but I would not discount Navy. Their triple option scheme is one that can suprise a lot of teams and rack up a number of yards.

Since: Nov 3, 2008
Posted on: June 11, 2009 8:59 am

Picking the independents


but if Bill Lynch made those comments ESPN and CBS wouldn't even had been there for the presser. Unfortunately JoPa is one hell of a coach but in the Big Ten and even across NCAAFB the decisions are being made by Delaney. He probably the major proponent of why there is no playoff.

Since: Apr 4, 2009
Posted on: June 11, 2009 12:09 am

Picking the independents

Who cares about Notre Dame and the Independents. Notre Dame doesn't want to be in a conference. Why do they need to be. They will only loose more than what they do know. Notre Dame is old news and will be. I get so tired of hearing about Notre Dame in football. Their program is terrible and it will stay that way till they get rid of Charlie Weiss and even when they get rid of him who will they get. The job is not the job it used to be. It hasn't had a good coach in 20 years. Its no where near the job like Florida, Alabama, or USC.    

Since: Aug 26, 2006
Posted on: June 10, 2009 10:17 pm

Picking the independents

Same old, same old from the sad sacks at CBS.  Better pray that Paterno stays alive for another few years, else what WILL you have to talk about?

Since: Jun 10, 2009
Posted on: June 10, 2009 9:28 pm

Picking the independents

Amen, can't write about anything relevant so go ahead and take a shot at JoePa.  Let me guess.......  Write about the fact that he's 82 years old...  brilliant? NOT.  What a lame article. 

Paterno has achieved, won, and assisted kids for his entire life.  Won the hearts of thousands of young people.  He produces more positive energy in one day than Dodd can in a year.  Put a good coaching staff around him and leave it alone. 

Since: Jun 10, 2009
Posted on: June 10, 2009 7:48 pm

Just A Question

Hasn't the Big Ten been in 3 BCS championships this decade? 2 losses and a win.

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