I may be beating a dead horse—quite a bit of Big Ten talk lately is regarding conference expansion—but according to this report, five of the candidates at the top of the list for Big Jim (Delaney) are Notre Dame, Missouri, Rutgers, Pitt, and Syracuse.
This will be a little series to take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of some of the serious targets for Big Ten expansion. At the end, I’ll wrap it all in a nice, little bow for you all and serve it on a silver platter.
Today, it’s the Fighting Irish.
The choice. The one that got away. The Holy Grail of expansion candidates. The..well, you get the point.
The relationship between Notre Dame and the Big Ten has been like a teenage couple, battling it out at the end of a phone conversation.
“You hang up first.”
“No..you hang up first.”
Instead of hanging up, its been about who will buckle and give way to the other first.
“You tell us you want to join the Big Ten first.”
“No..you tell us you want us to join the Big Ten first.”
The ridiculous relationship aside, Notre Dame has always made sense as the 12th team of the Big Ten. Let me italicize the important part of that sentence, and repeat it.
Notre Dame has always made sense as the 12th team of the Big Ten.
Fact is, neither side will budge on certain issues. For example, Notre Dame wants to keep its out-of-conference schedule, but Big Ten membership would require a set number of conference games, not to mention the highly desired—and most likely, highly lucrative—Big Ten conference championship game.
It might be more likely to happen now than ever, as Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick admitted to a few reporters that with the Big Ten expansion talk flooding media outlets, “You can each come up with a scenario that would force our hand.”
Whether by choice or by “force”, Notre Dame will most likely join a conference someday. If ND wants to make a big splash—coupled with Brian Kelly turning around the football program, as well—it should join the Big Ten before expansion happens without the Fighting Irish and the door is shut—permanently.
Notre Dame is not a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), a measurement thought to be used in determining viable expansion candidates by Big Ten officials. However, this is Notre Dame we are talking about—if anyone would be accepted into the Big Ten without AAU membership, it’s Notre Dame.
Here is what the Fighting Irish have accomplished as far as athletics in recent years.
- Fencing – 2003, 2005 National Champions
- Women’s Soccer – 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008 Conference Champions, 2004 National Champions
- Women’s Basketball - 2001 (Big East Regular Season Champions, NCAA Tournament Champions)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 30
(Text) Denotes post-season play
- 2002/2003: 24-10 (Big East, NCAA)
- 2003/2004: 19-13 (Big East, NIT)
- 2004/2005: 17-12 (Big East, NIT)
- 2005/2006: 16-14 (Big East, NIT)
- 2006/2007: 24-8 (Big East, NCAA)
- 2007/2008: 25-8 (Big East, NCAA)
- 2008/2009: 21-15 (Big East, NIT)
(Text) Denotes post-season play
- 2002: 10-3 (Gator Bowl Loss)
- 2003: 5-7
- 2004: 6-6—(Insight Bowl Loss)
- 2005: 9-3—(Fiesta Bowl Loss)
- 2006: 10-3—(Sugar Bowl Loss)
- 2007: 3-9
- 2008: 7-6—(Hawai'i Bowl Win)
- 2009: 6-6
Notre Dame will join the Big Ten.
OK, no they won’t.
OK, I really have no clue.
If Notre Dame doesn’t join, however, it will be interesting to see who the Big Ten looks at seriously; or, if this whole expansion fiasco was to nab the Fighting Irish in the first place.