One of the most special things about Notre Dame's football program is the fact that they are independent. But the tides of the college game are shifting and it's time for the Irish to find themselves a conference to join.
Notre Dame's football program is the only one without a conference as the rest of the school's teams reside in the Big East.
However, the ever-changing landscape and a new direction for the BCS's playoff system might make it absolutely necessary for the Irish to join the party.
Here are some reasons why Notre Dame must make the change for their program.
As Andy Staples of SportsIllustrated.com points out, the Irish football program currently makes about $15 million per year on it's current contract with NBC, but could stand to make more if they join a conference.
According to CBSSports.com, the addition of Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC garnered a slightly bigger financial share for each team in the conference.
For the Big Ten, a likely landing spot for a potential conference move for Notre Dame based on geography, teams in that conference are enjoying $21 million each per year, according to SporsBusinessDaily.com.
If Notre Dame were to land in the Big Ten and bring their following with them, the program could easily make more money on the TV side of things.
New BCS playoff system
The college football world's possible playoff system (something that is long overdue) could force the hand of the Irish to decide whether or not they will remain independent.
Some of the current discussions of a potential system have being a part of a conference and winning it a requirement to be included in the playoff.
Nothing is final yet. But if discussions lead to that type of playoff system being the norm, the Irish certainly wouldn't cancel themselves out of the equation.
Better chance to compete
If Notre Dame was to join a conference, which would they join?
Most would say the Big Ten automatically because of the geographic aspect of it, but don't rule out the Big 12 or ACC also, according to Andy Staples of SportsIllustrated.com.
Geography and finances suggest that league would be the Big Ten. But with Notre Dame's national reach, why further isolate a campus that isn't exactly located in a football recruiting hotbed? The ACC or Big 12 would make more competitive sense -- the money would be competitive, too -- and either would be open to adding Notre Dame if the Irish were truly serious about putting their football team in a conference.
Upon being placed in either the Big 12 or ACC, Notre Dame would receive a much more favorable schedule and a better chance to win their conference. That could only help the program win more games and in turn, compete for a chance at a national championship.
Bottom line: Notre Dame's team as a whole will improve on scheduling alone.