It’s the latest rumor and scuttlebutt. The Big 10 offering four schools to be the newest members of their conference.
The most important name on the list?
None other than the Fighting Irish, the pinnacle of Independents everywhere (all 3 of them).
Fans have hashed and rehashed this debate for nearly as long as the program has existed.
Notre Dame has flirted with various conferences and like a fickle woman, has eventually declined those advances.
But, Notre Dame may be receiving an offer they cannot refuse in the near future.
According to Nebraska, no official offer has been given and this is all just a big rumor of an action that has yet to be carried out.
According to John Taylor of NBC Sports, “ Nebraska, along with Missouri, Rutgers and Notre Dame, were the four schools mentioned in the station's report.
"The Nebraska chancellor was asked about the validity of the report by the Lincoln Journal Star , and his email response left no gray area at all."
"None whatsoever ," Harvey Perlman succinctly replied.
So, given that Nebraska, a team likely to embrace moving conferences has came out and said, without a doubt, that the report as posted by Kansas City all-sports station 810 WHB-AM was completely false.
I am going to assume, that at least at this juncture, the Big 10 has not officially invited anyone.
That said, these might very well be the teams the Big 10 does extend offers to after it has been approved. This will likely come in June sometime.
But, that still begs the question of what Notre Dame will do if they are extended the contract and a ball-point over the conference table.
They might join.
Those three words might be the scariest some people have read, but it may very well happen.
The reason? Well, the fact that there is more than one reason TO join might be a good place to start.
Notre Dame wants to compete .
Conferences around the country have made their intent clear, they are going to expand at some point. When that happens it will be difficult, if not impossible for Notre Dame to make it to the major bowl games because of conference tie-ins. Sure, they can use the weight of the Golden Dome for awhile, but the headache involved in re-negotiating bowl bids and tie-ins for Notre Dame as an independent while still trying to be fair to major conferences will eventually lead to the major bowls not wanting to incur the wrath of said conferences just to make sure Notre Dame has priority over their teams.
Like it or not, unless Notre Dame goes out and competes for a National Championship this season, or at least actually wins a BCS bowl game, years of mediocrity have left Notre Dame crippled with far less authority and pull than most Notre Dame fans believe.
Notre Dame Should be Proactive :
Its not good enough in the modern era to sit back and let things play out and then see what can be done with it. To hope that everything just "works out". If the super conferences come into being and Notre Dame is then forced to enter a conference, they have no bargaining power whatsoever. If the powers that be have essentially told Jack Swarbrick that this is going to happen, it would be wise for Notre Dame to join early and still be able to squeeze the Big 10 for everything they can.
By joining early they may be able to negotiate several things to their favor such as out of conference games, TV airing and profit sharing etc. The Big 10 would laugh in Swarbrick’s face if they new that one way or another Notre Dame would either join them or the ACC/Big East.
Notre Dame isn't going to form their own conference :
I cannot believe that this is still getting such play. Notre Dame has no pull whatsoever to schools currently in the Big 10, Big East, ACC, Big 12, or anyone else. They might be able to get some MAC schools to join.
Notre Dame has little to offer a Pitt, Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Texas, or anyone else to leave their current set-up to join Notre Dame’s conference.
Who would they play?
So, you could get Army and Navy to join and who? I suppose they could just absorb the MAC and then maybe they could convince some teams to leave their gigs. I for one think this is about as farfetched as Alabama leaving the SEC for the PAC-10.
Notre Dame Needs More than Football :
If your going to window shop, Notre Dame deserves more than one store front. No other conference than the Big 10 offers academics anywhere near what Notre Dame needs to affiliate with. As much as I hate all of their football teams (and I do mean all) they are academically above the Big East, ACC, PAC-10, and Big 12 across the board.
Don’t even get me started on the SEC.
They have far greater access to academic resources, think tanks, and research facilities than most conferences. The Big 10 actually has something to offer academically whether people want to admit it or not. Notre Dame gives up more than their independence of they join a sub-par academic conference, they REALLY start to give up what Notre Dame stands for.
Notre Dame Stands for more than Independence :
Its simple tradition that ND stay independent. It used to be “play anyone, anywhere, anytime”, but those days are gone. You can’t play 5 of the top 10 teams and expect to make it to the Championship Game, heck, probably not even a BCS bowl game. Parity has changed the game.
Notre Dame stands for so many things that have absolutely nothing to do with independence. Their identity isn’t based on them being “alone”, they have gained their prestige from winning; by being private and faith based; by transforming kids into admiral adults.
They stand for excellent academics and character. Their true symbols are the Golden Helmets, Touchdown Jesus, the Basilica and the Grotto.
Joining a conference doesn’t take away the championships and the Heisman winners. The All-American’s and the Hall of Famers. It doesn’t strip Notre Dame of the shadows of the Four Horsemen, or the legend of The Gipper. The things that truly make Notre Dame , NOTRE DAME, are eternal, and they will continue to perpetuate no matter what happens to the politics of Notre Dame. The only thing that Notre Dame can do now is ensure that they prepare for the future and their place in it.
While I am an advocate for remaining independent for as long as possible; I am NOT and advocate for doing so if it hurts Notre Dame in any way or somehow makes their importance less in the scheme of football. No matter what Notre Dame is apart of, they will continue to excel as they always have.
When Notre Dame gets that offer this summer, I am positive that they will not just burn the papers. They will consider and deliberate and debate. Fights will ensue and tensions will rise, but in the end its only because those who are in charge at Notre Dame want what’s best for her.
Maybe its time to add some conference championships to Notre Dame’s list of accomplishments, or maybe the time still isn’t right yet.
No matter what the outcome; that answer will affect the entire college football world.