An Open Letter to Notre Dame Fan; Please Check Your Arrogance at the Door.

Dear Notre Dame fan,

After writing my last piece on Notre Dame’s possible inclusion in the Big 10, I’ve chatted with several loyal followers of that team from South Bend at various forums on the world wide web.  I should first start by acknowledging that I did talk with a bunch of fans and former alums that were not only reasonable people, but dare I say genuinely nice individuals that advanced well reasoned arguments.  Thank you for those conversations.  That said, I continued to encounter those arrogant fans that apparently still believe the year is 1988 (here is  one that is fairly representative of that arrogant Notre Dame fan): It’s time for a reality check for the most unrealistic college sports’ fan. 

It’s one thing for Notre Dame fan to say they cherish their history and the tradition of Independence.  It’s quite another to act like Notre Dame is somehow too damn special to be included in the Big 10, or any other conference for that matter.   I decided to write this post not because I am obsessed with Notre Dame joining the Big 10, but because I felt compelled to address the most common arguments I encountered in discussing this issue with the legion of obnoxious Domers.  Those arguments are:

We have a national program and we don’t want to give it up.  I think there is a misunderstanding as to exactly what constitutes a national program in the modern sports era.  As I have discussed in other posts, the proliferation of sports has coincided with the successful formulation of cable companies and television networks, the only source of revenue that really matters (and my readers know that I am a “follow the money” man).  The idea that a school would make any decisions based on the few hundreds of fans that actually travel to and from road games is absurd.  The Ohio State University and the University of Michigan are every bit as much a “national program” as Notre Dame.  This is so for three reasons:  1) they are also Midwest schools, and as such, many Midwesterners have decided that they have grown tired  of Midwest climates and have moved to warmer weather cities taking their college football loyalties with them; 2) Contracts with ESPN and the Big 10 Network have delivered these games to these fans in their new locales; 3) both of these Big 10 programs have storied traditions that have included travelling across country marketing their product in the “old days” when doing so mattered  (i.e. before the advent of widespread television coverage), to include regular appearances on the west coast in the Rose Bowl.  Even mid-majors like Boise State have figured out how to be televised nationally on a regular basis, so this idea that Notre Dame needs to maintain its contract with NBC  and travel around the country to play football games to remain a national program is beyond absurd.

The thought bothering some Notre Dame fans is that they would be bogged down playing games in one region of the country, instead of having the flexibility to play schools anywhere in the United States.  But is Notre Dame really doing this anyway?  They already play Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue from the Big 10 each year, along with typically both service academies, Stanford, and U.S.C.  Not only is Notre Dame not taking advantage of this scheduling flexibility, but they are maintaining games against programs that could be described as “must glance TV,”  one of the many reasons NBC’s ratings for Irish games continue to slip.  I’m sorry, but when Alabama is playing LSU in the SEC, no one is putting on the Peacock to see if Notre Dame can pull off a win against Navy.  A conference schedule would allow ND to play all of the Big 10 rivalries presently in place plus rotate their regular OOC games against Stanford, Army, Navy, USC, et. al, while adding quality opponents like Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin to the schedule on a regular basis.   One piece of unsolicited advice Notre Dame—drop U.S.C. from the rotation for a while.  If you can’t beat Navy, you don’t need the kind of woodshed beating that U.S.C. has been delivering in recent years.  And besides, Ohio State can always pick up this slack.

One poster actually talked about Notre Dame’s diversity.  Now this is just plain amusing.  How exactly is a school that caters to mostly white Catholics at the high end of the intelligence spectrum focusing on diversity?

Notre Dame shouldn’t join the Big 10 because we are simply a better academic institution then the Big 10 schools and/or Notre Dame is a small school that doesn’t have anything in common with the massive public universities in the Big 10.  This simply isn’t true.  First of all, Notre Dame is NOT a member of the prestigious AAU, a not so insignificant omission.  Other than religion courses (and according to many ND alums, the school has slashed the number of these classes offered significantly), there is virtually no meaningful academic difference between Notre Dame and Northwestern, as both are small private colleges that rank very high academically.  To wit, acording to U.S. News and World Report , Notred Dame (#20) ranks dab smack in the middle of Big Ten schools  Northwestern(#12) and Michigan (#27).  And this assertion is laughable when you consider Notre Dame’s membership in the Big East for basketball.   While many of the Big East schools do rank fairly high, the Big East also includes several schools that are not tier 1;  the University of Pittsburgh at #56, Syracuse at #58, and unranked third tier schools like St. John’s and West Virginia.  Most of the Big East schools cluster in the fifties according to the U.S. News and World Report, below both The Ohio State University and Wisconsin, upper to middle of the pack schools in the Big Ten.  In other words, this objection is hypocrisy, plain and simple.

How is Notre Dame supposed to remain different and/or stand out from other Big 10 Schools like Ohio State and Michigan? Answer, win football games on the field.  Despite being able to control their entire schedule, Notre Dame has been irrelevant in the BCS bowl picture for the last decade.  It’s amazing how winning games fixes most ills.  Notre Dame will set themselves apart from Michigan and Ohio State by beating them and winning conference titles.  And this raises a separate point; each Notre Dame season is considered a success only if it ends in a national championship, a goal that has become increasingly more difficult in this day and age of parity in college football.  And  the truth is, even if Notre Dame would have gone undefeated last season, Alabama and Texas would have still played for the National Championship.    That’s because pollsters place a significant emphasis on winning a conference and/or winning a conference championship game.   If the Pac 10 and the Big 10 expand and play such a game, that means that all of the AQ conferences that send qualifiers to BCS games will have had an opportunity to play an additional game against a quality opponent.  This places Notre Dame at a significant competitive disadvantage.   As things stand now, Notre Dame must be in the top 8 in the polls to be guaranteed a BCS game, whereas any team that wins a major conference will garner such a spot even if they are not in the top 8.  In other words, this Independence thing is yet one more obstacle Notre Dame must overcome.  I would also argue that being the only private Catholic school in the conference coupled with its unique history and tradition would always set Notre Dame apart from its Big Ten counterparts.

Notre Dame is a goldmine and already makes plenty of money, they simply don’t need the Big 10. Notre Dame’s NBC deal is worth $10-15 million dollars annually while each Big 10 school makes about $22 million from the Big 10 Network alone.  Simply put, NBC is never going to be able to pay Notre Dame the money that a cable provider or a Network can, because the latter capitalizes on two sources of revenue (subscription fees and advertisers) while the former earns money only from advertisers.  This gap will only become wider in the future.

Anyone who says that Notre Dame has plenty of money simply isn’t capable of thinking like people who generate this kind of capital.  People of money rarely leave “extra” money on the table because they have too much.  It’s the opinion of this author that Notre Dame’s inclusion in the Big 10 would create an economic giant that would be beneficial to both Notre Dame and the Big 10.   And, as I have discussed in another article, the money that the Big 10 commands in research as a member of the prestigious CIC universities dwarfs the football TV revenue anyway.  While average college football fan does not care about this, university presidents do.

Notre Dame is a brand name because of the tradition of those that came before us  like Rockne, Leahy, Holtz, and this tradition was built on Independence. No question about it, Notre Dame has a great legacy.  But, then again, so does Michigan (the team with the highest winning percentage of all time) and The Ohio State University (presently ranked #6).  Times change, and with it, new legacies are born.  Am I the only one that thinks a regular Ohio State/Notre Dame matchup would be a good thing for both college football and Notre Dame?  I’m sorry, but when your last championship run was more than 20 years ago, it’s time to change with the times and start building a new legacy.  Time to stop living in the past Domers.

The Big 10 is downright awful, why join that conference. This make me laugh when I hear a Notre Dame fan criticize anyone for playing awful football.  This from the school that played in the Hawaii bowl two years ago and voted to abstain from playing in any bowl game at all last year because it wasn’t up to Notre Dame standards.  Notre Dame did not win 1 BCS bowl in the last decade, instead getting blown out three times.   I’d argue that even if the Big 10 is a bit down right now, that’s a perfect fit for the Fighting Irish, as they have had more than their share of struggles recently.  And this supposed “poor conference” has not held Ohio State back much, as winning the conference allowed them to play in 3 BCS National Championship games in the last decade.  I’ll pit the results of the big time programs in the Big 10 in the last decade against the accomplishments of the Fighting Irish any day.  And anyways, trends like this tend to be cyclical in nature.  It would be incredibly shortsighted to not join historically one of the best conferences in college football because of the last ten years or so.

I think a lot of Big 10 fans want to see Notre Dame join a conference out of jealousy? Jealous of what, exactly?  Games against Army?  The Hawaii Bowl?  No football in January?  Your bad TV deal?  Annual beatings at the hands of the Trojans?  Back to back losses to Navy?  Your championship in 1988?  The mural of Touchdown Jesus?  Please.

Why join their conference, those people hate us! As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em.  And hey, if you play them regularly, maybe one day you’ll even beat ’em.


Deliriously Happy Big Ten Fan

Categories: College Football

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. One poster actually talked about Notre Dame’s diversity. Now this is just plain amusing. How exactly is a school that caters to mostly white catholic males at the high end of the intelligence spectrum focusing on diversity?

    This is wrong. There are more women at ND then men. Also, diversity comes in many forms. While ND still lacks ethnic diversity it sets the standard for geographic diversity. Take a walk around the student parking lot and you’ll see license plates from all over the country. Those students go back home to various parts of the country and still follow the Irish. Notre Dame travels well, but the fact is that travel is not really needed. The Alamo Dome last year was filled with Domers living in Texas. And FedEx Field will be filled in 2011 with Domers living in DC.

    You also talk as if Ohio State is the entire conference. Michigan sucks. As do all the other teams in the Big10. While ND has been down recently, joining the Big10 as it stands right now is not interesting. Add some quality teams, like Nebraska, Texas, and Pitt and then we’ll talk.

  2. JVH, I do realize there are alot of women at ND. My comment was obviously meant to to focus on the male athletes as I am talking about college football. I would love to see some numbers, but many of the ND alums that I talked to told me that many of the ND student base is caucasian (your response even seems to acknowledge this). I do agree that ND does have geographical diversity (it’s a Catholic school and they bring in people of this faith from a cross the nation), so you did make a good point here. Overall, though, I actually think we are agreeing here more than we are disagreeing.

    Ohio State is NOT the whole Big 10 conference. The Big 10, in fact, has an “all for one and one for all” mentality. I do think that Ohio State, for better or worse, has become the face of the conference the last decade. But believe me, the Big 10 is a tight knit group that functions for the collective good of the conference.

    The decision to join the Big 10 (or not) by Notre Dame will have nothing to do with the quality of the competition, unfortunately for true college football fans. It will all be about money, which is why I find this objection amusing. What’s funny is that in discussion with others while talking about the possibility of a superconferences, some fans have actually expressed a concern that hitting the proverbial home run (adding Texas, Nebraska, and ND) which I think is extremely unlikely, makes the conference too strong. If you want to win championships, I’m not sure you want the conference that stacked. That said, I don’t expect Michigan to be down forever. Add that to Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State, programs that are competitive every year, and I’m not sure why you think the Big 10 needs to beef up (especially since I do expect ND to get better too).

    At any rate, thank you for your input. I was hoping to hear from more ND fans. I’m sure you guys and gals probably disagree with many of my assessments.

  3. I just want to correct a few inaccuracies (from both the column and one of the comments):

    Notre Dame only has about 8000 students (plus another 2000 graduate students); Not 20,000. This is actually my main sticking point against Big 10 membership. Other than NU, the rest are large public landgrant universities.

    Also, there are not more women THAN (not then) men at Notre Dame. The ratio is ~ 55% men to 45% women.

  4. Patrick, thanks for the info. I wasn’t sure about the size of ND. I meant to write that both schools had less than 20,000. Even at that, your point is well taken.

  5. First off I agree with dumping independence and getting on the Big 10 band wagon. From a fan’s point of view, staying independent is old hat. ND can have the best of both worlds and trust me things would still work out for them. The super conference would be consisted of a west(Minn, Iowa, Wisc, NW, Illinois, Perdue)/east(MSU, UM, ND, IU, OSU, Penn) leagues. Teams would play their 5 regional teams and rotate between two non-regional teams. Then you have 4 non-conf games to schedule. ND can still play the likes of Pitt, USC, Standford, BC, etc. to continue tradition and return to a quality schedule instead watching games against the military teams and now the crap WAC. They should be able to continue their 7 home games, 4 away games, 1 neutral site game schedule. The idea of being independent so they can cater to different geographic locations is B.S. Continuing independence wins you a honorary job at Citgo and an official cell phone ring tone “meow” for the rest of your life if you get my drift. I say bring on conference play! ND gets to add quality teams instead of scheduling quality crap(Tulsa, Utah, Army, Western Mich).

    The Big 10 is downright awful, why join that conference.

    First off in this topic the Big 10 isn’t awful but it isn’t stacked with quality. The Big 10 should be called the Big 3 and the mediocre 8. But of that 8, one team (Purdue) beats OSU but gets thrown in the trash can later on by Wisconsin. Next point deals with OSU and the Big 10. Now again we should do another conference rename to OSU and the 10 dwarfs. But when OSU goes to bowl games they don’t dominate either lately. Their latest NC runs were blow outs and truely shows me nothing great about that school. This year was no different as the media hyped up Oregon and OSU beat them by 9 points. Beating your bowl game opponent by 9 points doesn’t make you special. Losing to Purdue was their wake up call. But a near loss to Navy, then losing to USC should have been the real wake-up call. Then they finish out their season with cream-puffs until the last two games then Michigan. You discuss big time programs: OSU, PENN, WISC, Iowa. Going off of a team’s record doesn’t make them relevant, i.e. Wisc had 3 close conf games against the bottom of the barrel teams and and two near losses to non-conf teams. Iowa had 4 close games to the bottom barrel teams both conf and non-conf, anyway you do the research to continue. Penn actually played great amongst the conf vs non-conf play. Even with their loses, one of the two wasn’t a blow out. If you have time to put together a blog it’s not a bad idea to do your homework.

    Using a scapegoat of the Hawaii bowl and not playing a bowl is poor reporting. So ND went to a bowl game and won, here’s a pat on the head. Next year the coach gets fired and you criticize them not playing. This team went from going towards finishing a season on a good note to playing like they knew mid-way Good Time Charlie had bought a Harley and was on his way out of town. Any team that goes through such a change coaching wise and stinks at the season shouldn’t bow to a GMAC bowl or anything else for that matter. So back on topic, Big 10 football isn’t bad but it needs quality to improve. Hence the question is why go after ND? First off the Big 10 seems money hungry because they want the golden goose. ND now has a quality coach that doesn’t put up with any crap and we all saw what Kelly did with UC. If you know anything UC was not a football school and their stadium didn’t match up with the crap they were previously putting out. Once ND starts rolling in the right direction, it’s only a matter of time before ND gets greedy and joins the Big 10. This will help your top teams to play better with another quality opponent vs adding a ton of crap.

    I think a lot of Big 10 fans want to see Notre Dame join a conference out of jealousy? Jealous of what, exactly? Games against Army? The Hawaii Bowl? No football in January? Your bad TV deal? Annual beatings at the hands of the Trojans? Back to back losses to Navy? Your championship in 1988? The statute of Touchdown Jesus? Please.

    How can I put this in a way you can understand since you must not be very old, I’d say mid 20’s so your sense of history is dulled. It’s not jealousy that people feel, it’s a lack of tradition. I’ve been to OSU on game day and it’s not ND. Big 10 teams don’t have a storied past that is known across the nation. We have Knute Rockne, Leahy, Ara, Holtz, actual pep rallies, 7 Heisman winners, 11 national championships, yes Touchdown Jesus which isn’t a statue but an awesome mural, the Golden Dome, etc, etc, ect. ND has had a TV deal long before the Big 10 had a network and money isn’t an issue. Over 200 million in endowments, why is NBC money an issue? Annual beatings from USC (only in their stadium lately, not ours), not to mention Big 10 hasn’t fared well against the Trojans on the win column either. OSU almost got beat by Navy. ND hasn’t played Army since 2006 and they won big which isn’t a surprise. Hawaii Bowl was a blow out and it was respectable to their record that year. No bowl game last year, well I already commented on that- would your team have played if they were in the same situation? Do your homework ND hater and be relevant! I’m not a cocky fan but I’ll tell you how it is and not just my personal standpoint which might get construed as arrogant if I was that person.

    Why join their conference, those people hate us!

    All I have to say is that ND will still play their Big 10 rivals and gain some good ones like OSU and Penn, while still playing their non-conf traditional games. If Big 10 country hates us, well they should have a rite when Kelly gets ND off the ground and OSU gets knocked off their pedestal. Now that’s my only arrogant comment because any real fan who has faith (regardless of religion and spiritual basis) fires back. So don’t come back with an anti-Catholic remark because that’s just tasteless, horrible reporting.

  6. Ahhhh….I should have not blown off my top so fast. I forgot to do my homework on you sir. OSU fan Michael. Your comments are like a bad cup of coffee I get every time I visit my in-laws especially from my mother-in-law. You are old enough to remember some things but sometimes we all need to do our homework and did deeper into the story instead of just bashing something until it appears like a smashed banana. Some of my comments were not nice to put it politely. I wish I could figure out how two schools who don’t play each other have fans that hate each other worse than the hate each team has for Michigan. It’s the media’s fault that everyone hates ND. But ND is a storied program even if that stories are from the past. It’s not jealously, it’s just what it is and I think every team wants to have a great story to tell for the future. Anyway I can ramble on but I wish your team luck, you guys have the talent to go NC bound. Just send a message to Tressel saying to step it up a notch and smash every team like it’s their last one.

  7. Chris, first off, thank you for your comments. Sincerely. I appreciate criticism as much as praise for my work. And I have pretty thick skin, your comments were not below the belt.

    My negative assessment of ND is not borne out of a hate for them as I actually think they have made themselves fairly irrelevant. It’s funny how the college football world changes; I actually root for Michigan in some instances and feel sorry for Notre Dame (any dislike I have for your team is based on arrogant fans that I have encountred, and nothing more. I do not include you in this bunch).

    College football has changed for me because of the BcS. What I see is an opportunity for a super conference; a mutual benefit that would position the Big 10 and all its members (including Notre Dame) to succeed on the field and in the pocket books for generations to come.

    My frustration for Notre Dame is that I think much of their decision making is mired in consideration of the way things used to be. The college football world is changing, and Notre has had a hard time competing in the present format. ND fans unanimously blame it on their coaching woes the last decade or so, and I don’t doubt that this has something to do with it (I thought Weis was a subpar coach but thought that Tyrone Willingham was a good coach who wasn’t given a fair shake). But I think that it is much more than that. I think independence is hurting them (kids now dream of playing in certain conferences, for example). The lack of a regional fan base to recruit from and considerations that others don’t have to worry about (like LSAT requirements or whether the coach is Pro-Choice) has also made it difficult for ND to compete.

    I just think times have changed, and ND is refusing to change with them. THe NBC deal isn’t the pot of gold that it used to be. The Irish have been wholly irrelevant in the NC discussion for almost 20 years, and college football is talking about moving toward super conferences. I really think that ND is missing the boat.

    I won’t get into a pissing match with you over Ohio State as I agree with you with regards to some of their shortcomings on big games lately. I will say this, though, participation in the Big 10 has helped them become the second highest grossing school in all of college football (Texas is #1 at about $120 mill, Ohio State is 2nd at about $117M) while figures I read have ND at about $30 million (that’s what I have read in several articles, but you can tell me if you think that is wrong). Participation in the Big 10 has allowed them to play in three NC games in the last decade (however weak the conference is, it hasn’t hurt them too bad).

    The truth is, Chris, any rivarly hate I have these days is with the SEC conference. I see including ND in the Big 10 as a way to help keep our conference ahead of the SEC as they have been the top dogs for at least a few years now. I do think ND joining the B10 would benefit both the Big 10 and Notre Dame.

    Thanks for the posts, I appreciated your feedback and fully expected ND fans to fire back at me. After all, it’s the passion that keeps us tuning in each week, even when our teams don’t meet our expectations.

  8. I don’t have time to go into who makes more money but your comments are good ones and honestly I didn’t jump up and down about anything except for your comments on ND’s coaches. Let’s put it this way, each one had their good points and bad. In the end you either know both sides of the ball and how to do your job or you’re some blind guy shooting every which way hoping for a bulls-eye on the target. I could find relevant things to discuss about every coach post Lou (and including Lou), trust me. And bottom line it was poor recruiting on the various AD’s of ND’s past picking these coaches. Anyway I’ll keep praying that Jack Swarbrick and Father Jenkins realize that it’s time to drop independence for reality. If you need any insight in the future on ND shoot me a line.

    On a side note, do you think Pryor should complain about his knee every single game this season, and if so will this help him win the Heisman and a NC? lol

  9. Chris, I wasn’t specific on the coaches either, but I agree that each had their strengths and weaknesses. This may be something that ND fan (some, probably not you though) are unwilling to acknowledge; ND is not the hot spot destination it used to be. From what I have read, Urban Meyer was ND’s first choice both times, but he did not have any real interest in going there. If I’m a coach deciding where to go, why go to a program with all of these limitations (no built in recruiting base, lofty entrance requirements, religious councerns, etc.) on top of taking the reigns for a program that has struggled for 20 years. Alot of prominent national pundits believe that it is going to be very hard for ND to compete on a regular basis because of this. While I will acknowledge that some kids probably do pick ND because of the independence, I do think that I am right when I say that some kids specifically choose other schools because of the conference thing. I think the SEC has made the idea of playing in a conference championship game appealing to many of the kids, and it’s not a coincidence that the Big 10 and Pac 10 are talking about expanding to play such a game (the extra $10-$15 million I’m sure has something to do with it).

    Thanks for your feedback. I meant to tell you that what ever frustrations I may have with the Irish, it comes no where near the level of hate I have for that team up North. I really do think it’s better for college football when ND is playing well, and I really think it would be mutually beneficial if they joined the Big 10. Have a good weekend.


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