Conference Talk: How Notre Dame can stay Independent with Big Ten Expansion

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Conference Talk: How Notre Dame can stay Independent with Big Ten Expansion
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With all of the talk recently about conference realignment, I thought I'd put in my two cents worth on how I'd like Notre Dame to handle this if the Big East gets raided by the Big Ten during this process.

If the Big East can no longer be a viable football conference, I think Notre Dame should lead the charge to keep the Big East alive as an elite non-football conference, thereby allowing them to remain independent in football.

Here's how I'm seeing this shake out.

First, all of the football members of the Big East will be gone to join other conferences, which takes out Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, and West Virginia.

That leaves what is still a deep and talented basketball conference, with Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova, and Notre Dame.

Of course, we'll want to add a few schools to the conference—at least four, and possibly as many as eight. And the Atlantic 10 Conference would be a great conference to raid to fill out the new Big East.

In attempting to fill out the conference, there are lots of candidates, but I've come up with a 16 team conference that would fit well together not only athletically, but also in philosophy and academics.

Here it is:

University of Notre Dame Fightin' Irish, Notre Dame, Indiana
Georgetown University Hoyas, Washington, D.C.
Marquette University Golden Eagles, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Villanova University Wildcats, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
George Washington University Colonials, Washington, D.C.
St. Louis University Billikens, St. Louis, Missouri
Duquesne University Dukes, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
DePaul University Blue Demons, Chicago, Illinois
Seton Hall University Pirates, South Orange, New Jersey
St. John's University Red Storm, Queens, New York City, New York
Providence College Friars, Providence, Rhode Island
University of Dayton Flyers, Dayton, Ohio
St. Joseph's University Hawks, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Xavier University Musketeers, Cincinnati, Ohio
Butler University Bulldogs, Indianapolis, Indiana
Loyola University Chicago Ramblers, Chicago, Illinois

I really like this conference, for a lot of reasons.

There is certainly a heavy Catholic influence here, as there are 14 Catholic Universities, and only two private secular Universities. There would be no public universities involved at all. This conference could easily become an all Catholic conference by adding Loyola Maryland and Creighton, and taking out Butler and George Washington.

Also, there are some other colleges that would fit well that would add more secular schools, such as Temple and George Mason.

From an athletics standpoint, this would certainly be a competitive conference.

Georgetown, Notre Dame, Villanova, Marquette, Loyola and St. John's can all claim a national title in basketball.

We all saw what Butler did this year, nearly winning the title. 

St. Joseph's, DePaul, Providence, and Seton Hall have made the Final Four, and Xavier and Dayton have made the Elite Eight.

George Washington has made the Sweet Sixteen and, St. Louis and Duquesne are probably historically the weakest basketball teams in the conference, but they do bring other things to the table.

Academically, this conference would be a superstar.

Using U.S. News and World Report rankings as a standard, Notre Dame and Georgetown are in the top 25 academically among national universities.

George Washington, Marquette and St. Louis are in the top 100, and Loyola and Duquesne are 119 and 128 respectively.

Four other schools make Tier Three in the rankings. (Say what you will about USN&WR rankings—they are the most widely distributed and comprehensive academic rankings available, so I'm going with them.)

Even the schools that don't appear in the U.S. News National University Rankings are still quality academic institutions.

Providence College has been ranked by US News and World Report as one of the top two regional colleges in the Northeastern United States for the past nine consecutive years.

Dayton graduated 96 percent of it's student-athletes in 2008, the most of any Atlantic 10 Conference school, and tied for 10th in the nation in such achievement. They are also ranked as one of the top ten Catholic Universities in the country.

Butler is No. 2 in the Midwest Master's Universities rankings (just behind Creighton, another school I considered.) Xavier is third.

St. Joseph's is eight among Best Universities-Master’s (North,) and has a top 25 business school.

There are three ranked schools among graduate business programs, and 10 of the top 100 law schools in the country.

They are all similarly sized schools, with an average enrollment of 12,500 students, with a low of 4,500 (Butler) and a high of 25,000 (DePaul).

Villanova was once part of the Atlantic 10 before joining the Big East, and there are lots of historical and geographical connections between the schools.

Unlike the current Big East, where there is ongoing tension between the football schools and non-football schools, this conference would be a completely non-football conference.

This would allow Notre Dame to continue its independence in football, mush as it does now with its relationship with the current Big East.

*****

As for the football schools currently in the Big East, I'm sure they'll land on their feet.

All this talk could be nothing, but if the dominoes start to topple, here's the biggest shakeup I could see happening:

Big Ten (16 schools)
11 current members
Pittsburgh
Rutgers
Syracuse
Connecticut
Missouri

Pac-12
Current 10 members
Utah
Colorado

Big XII

Loses Colorado to Pac-10
Loses Missouri to Big Ten
Adds Arkansas from SEC
Adds TCU from MWC

SEC
Loses Arkansas to Big XII
Adds West Virginia

MWC
Loses Utah to Pac-10
Loses TCU to Big XII
Adds Boise State
Adds Hawaii

ACC (expands to 16 teams)

Current 12 members
Cincinnati
Louisville
South Florida
Navy

It's also possible that the Big Ten will add only one team, which means there may be a much smaller trickle down effect.

Perhaps East Carolina or Central Florida will join the Big East if it's Pittsburgh to jump.

I could see more shifting if Missouri is the one to jump—The Big XII would try to get Arkansas, then the SEC might try to poach West Virginia, again leaving East Carolina or Central Florida to join the Big East.

Or, the Big XII could add Utah instead, with the MWC grabbing Boise State to replace them.

All in all, there are a lot of interesting possibilities for conference realignment as this whole thing shakes down.

What are your thoughts?

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