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