Notre Dame Football: Should Irish Say "Yes" If Big Ten Comes Calling?
Since the mid-1990's, the University of Notre Dame and the Big Ten Conference have had a relationship similar to that of the most attractive girl in school consistently spurning the advances of the annoyingly persistent guy.
However, as time goes on, that persistence from the Big Ten may pay dividends for the conference that has desperately wanted Notre Dame since this humble writer was welcomed to the world in the spring of 1992.
Last month, when school presidents approved a four-team playoff that is set to begin in 2014, Notre Dame was faced with a new reality of having to finish in the top four of the BCS standings in order to have a shot at winning a national championship.
That doesn't necessarily mean a team must win its conference to be placed in the top four, but it's highly likely that that will be the case more times than not.
This unique situation places Notre Dame at a proverbial crossroads.
Should the university abandon its treasured independence and join the Big Ten Conference in the hopes of better positioning itself to be in the thick of things for future national championships?
It's a question that athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Rev. John Jenkins will continue to discuss on a a frequent basis.
While abandoning its independent status wouldn't be an easy change for the Irish, joining the Big Ten would make for a smoother transition.
First and foremost, joining the 12-team conference makes geographic sense, as Notre Dame is located in the thick of Big Ten country. The university would also become the state of Indiana's third institution in the Big Ten, joining Indiana University and Purdue University.
The benefit in remaining close to home is the relatively inexpensive travel bill that Notre Dame would incur on an annual basis. Notre Dame's athletic teams would only have to travel to nearby schools such as Michigan, Northwestern and Ohio State, rather than crossing the country to compete (see the newly formed "Big East" conference).
Speaking of the schools Notre Dame would be joining in the Big Ten, three—Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue—are annual Irish opponents and rivals.
Having those three schools as conference opponents would allow the Irish to keep traditional rivals USC, Stanford, Boston College and Navy as non-conference opponents.
And while NBC has the rights to all Notre Dame home games through 2015, the Big Ten would provide a more profitable option for the Irish. On June 4th, the conference announced that it planned to distribute $284 million to its 12 members. Once the numbers are crunched, the end result is each member institution receiving $23.6 million.
To compare, NBC distributes $1.2 million per Notre Dame home game, with the visiting team receiving half of that pie. In that current system, Notre Dame receives $4.8 million per year from NBC, with a portion of that amount being used to fund academic scholarships.
That's only a sliver of the financial discussion on the topic.
In the end, the Irish's future in college football will be determined by the quality of the teams that trot out onto the turf at Notre Dame Stadium on fall Saturdays.
If joining a conference makes the journey to a finish in the top four of the BCS standings that much easier, then so be it.
Should Notre Dame's administration choose to take that route, they can only hope that the Big Ten will be waiting with open arms.
Hopefully all the years of the pretty girl saying "no" haven't turned the annoyingly persistent guy against her.
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