For Notre Dame and the Big East, It Is Time To Fish or Cut Bait

Jason DuniganCorrespondent IMarch 4, 2010

It is time.

Notre Dame has outlived its usefulness to the Big East.

There once was a school of thought that said Notre Dame being affiliated with the Big East was a mutually beneficial relationship. That school of thought now receives a failing grade.

For the second time in less than eight years, the Big East Conference is poised to be raided by a more financially strong conference.  Whether the Big Ten takes one or more Big East teams remains to be seen, but nonetheless, the threat is ever-present.

Several years ago, when the ACC came calling for three Big East teams, Notre Dame could have stepped up to the plate and helped out the Big East.

It chose not to.

It did not end up mattering because the three replacement schools for the departed trinity—as well as new comer Connecticut—worked out better than anyone could have imagined.

Now, with the threat looming once again, Notre Dame also being a courted candidate, everything could be settled by Notre Dame joining either the Big East for all sports, or leaving the Big East altogether and joining the Big Ten.

Again, Notre Dame has seemingly chosen to do nothing.

Now, before I go further, believe it or not, I fully understand Notre Dame's decision to remain independent in football.  They do not seem to feel as compelled in any of their other sports to cherish independence, but as is the case at many other institutions, football is the horse that drives the Irish cart.

Notre Dame is one of the few schools in the unique situation to be able to operate without conference affiliation and do so from a point of financial strength.

That said there is no reason for the Big East to continue to make a home for Notre Dame's other sports.

In times past, it appeared as though Notre Dame was a beneficial part of the Big East's bowl affiliation contracts.

That is definitely no longer the case.  Oh, it doesn't hurt the Big East to dangle the possibility of sending Notre Dame to one of the Big East's affiliated bowls.  It just doesn't seem to be helping anymore.

Want proof? 

The Gator Bowl for many years remained a Big East partner, mainly because of the chance they may get to host Notre Dame at year's end.  The Gator Bowl and the Big East severed ties this offseason.

The replacement bowl for the Gator, becoming the Big East's number two bowl position is the Champs Sports Bowl.  And Notre Dame wasn't necessarily a factor in the arrangement.

"You could fairly say that a Big East deal would have been done if Notre Dame wasn't part of the package, but the fact that they are makes it that much more attractive," said Florida Citrus Sports Chief Executive Steve Hogan.

So what did Notre Dame bring to the table in terms of bowl negotiating power? 

The answer is "Nothing."

The Big East could use Notre Dame right now in football.  But, as we have established, however, Notre Dame will not help the Big East.  Now the Big East should stop helping Notre Dame.

The Time for Backrubbing is at an End.

It is now more apparent than ever than ever that the Big East and Notre Dame must part ways. 

It is no longer a relationship based on give and take.  The Big East certainly doesn't need anything Notre Dame has to offer in terms of basketball.  Notre Dame basketball is not what turns on television sets. Notre Dame takes up space in the Big East, but no longer gives anything of value back in return.

Notre Dame needs the Big East to house all of its other sports. 

If the Big East finally wises up and tells Notre Dame to pack sand, where will Notre Dame go for all of its other sports?  The Mid-American Conference? 

The Atlantic 10? 

Conference USA?

The Big Ten is in a position to tell Notre Dame "No" as far as Irish basketball and Olympic sports go.  The Big Ten wants Notre Dame for football.   They will take the rest as a package deal, but only if football comes along for the ride.

The Big East can effectively kick Notre Dame to the curb and pick up a school like Xavier or Duquesne, or both to even out the conference or to satiate the Catholic contingent.  Notre Dame doesn't help Big East football, and the Big East doesn't need Notre Dame for anything else.

The Big East dropping Notre Dame would force Notre Dame to do some serious soul searching.  They would have to come to some hard decisions.  They would have to decide just how important finding a quality home for the rest of their non-gridiron sports might be.

If the Big East were to receive some luck of the Irish, maybe Notre Dame might decide to join for football, and all this hand wringing over losing a team would come to an end. Or, maybe they decide to cash in on that one-way ticket to Big Ten Land, in which case the Big East still comes out smelling like a rose.

If Notre Dame pulls out of the Big East and goes all-in for membership into the Big Ten, the Big Ten gets the team it really wants, they won't come after a Big East school, and the rest of the conference reshuffling will go on out west.

As crazy as it sounds, the Big East's survival may depend on actually kicking Notre Dame OUT of the conference. 

The question is will they be smart enough to consider that option before it's too late, and another Big East school or three leave for greener pastures?

Only time will tell.


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