Notre Dame: Irish Independence, Jack Swarbrick Must Resist the Big Ten

Dan ScofieldAnalyst IMarch 11, 2010

Sitting in a small restaurant alongside a few intrigued reporters, Notre Dame's athletic director was pressed with questions regarding the future of his school's football independence.

With the recent talks of conference expansion, particularly within the Big Ten and Pac-10, Notre Dame has been a popular name being brought up in these discussions.

Adding the Irish means increased income within the conference.

Increased income means more exposure, stability, and more power in both BCS and non-BCS bowl negotiations.

And because of that, along with the cries of most of Notre Dame nation to keep it's independence as one of its last saving graces, Swarbrick now finds himself in quite a dilemma.

“I believe we’re at a point right now where the changes could be relatively small or they could be seismic,” Swarbrick stated . “The landscape could look completely different. What I have to do along with Father Jenkins is try and figure out where those pieces are falling and how the landscape is changing.”

Although Swarbrick insists that anyone could "invent a scenario that would force our hand," the final decision comes down to himself and Father Jenkins.

If Notre Dame wishes to keep it's independence in football, there is no reason why they cannot do so.

Faced with a crucial decision, and one that will impact his legacy at the school, Swarbrick cannot afford to be a weak-kneed leader. He will need to take a stand to save the already delicate football program from disappearing into the boring and unattractive depths of the Big Ten.

With the recent struggles of the Irish in the last decade, giving in to the Big Ten would only steepen the rate of the decline.

Hidden within the conference, the Irish would no longer be a "national" school, but rather a Midwest program competing mainly with those already on their schedule—the same matchups that already have Irish fans complaining.

The Pac-10 is not an option due to the travel expenses and geography of South Bend. Stuck in the depth of Big Ten country, joining them would be the only logical destination for Swarbrick to choose.

Joining the Big Ten would be the worst possible outcome. At the same time, joining the Big Ten would be the easiest decision for the administration.

So Jack, the pressures rising and the spotlight is on—where is this program headed?

If the decision ends up being every dedicated Domer's worst-nightmare-turned-reality, Jack Swarbrick will go down as the biggest villain in Notre Dame history.