Conference Realignment: The Giant Shift and Where It Leaves Notre Dame Football

Colin JohnsonContributor IJune 12, 2010

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 19: A general view of the 'Golden Dome' on the campus of Notre Dame University before a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Michigan State Spartans on September 19, 2009 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Are you a Fightin' Irish fan? Wondering what will happen to them during this tectonic shift of college football as we know it? Me too. In my eyes, there are a few options for the Irish...

1. Move to the Big East.
2. Move to the Big Ten.
3. Remain Independent.

Lets break down the first choice. Move to the Big East. This would be a great move for Notre Dame. They would have advantages over teams such as Rutgers, Louisville, and South Florida. Don't act as if they would run straight through this division, though. They still would have challenges that, if won, would look great in the eyes of spectators and, most importantly, BCS voters. Teams like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia are always in contention for January bowl games and would be great key wins for the Irish if they are on the bubble for a BCS game.

Although many would like to see the Golden Domers move to the Big East, here's the problem. The ACC is going to raid the Big East of teams in desperation of survival. The ACC, on a list of the major conferences, is above the Big East. Because of this, when the SEC decides its not just going to sit back and watch the Big Ten and Pac 10 grow stronger, they will go to the ACC and steal teams along the lines of Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, or Virginia Tech. This creates a huge problem for the ACC, meaning in an attempt to save their conference, they will go to the Big East to offer memberships to the teams worth having. So, although going to the Big East sounds like a good idea, would it really be worth it if there was no Cincinnati or West Virginia?

Option two, go to the Big Ten. This may seem to many as the last option for the Irish. They would move to a conference that they already play many of the teams within. The Irish play games against Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue regularly, with occasional games against Penn State. But would the addition of Wisconsin, Ohio State, and now due to their migration from the Big 12, Nebraska help the Irish? Yes, it would. These teams are always mentionable when talking about BCS games, and victories against these teams could push the Irish in front of many other schools.

There is no worry about the Big Ten evaporating like the Big East, so the only real thing to think about when talking about the Big East, is the loss of their television contract with NBC. The Irish would have to settle for being a part of the Big 10 Network. This isnt all that bad, but would they reach as many households as they do now? Who knows.

Last option, remain Independent. Notre Dame is one of the few schools that have chosen to remain Independent due to the schools prestigious history. Being Independent means they can strengthen their schedule as they wish and keep rivalries of many years alive. When Independent, the Irish can keep teams like Boston College, USC, and Stanford on their schedule, not having to worry about a conference schedule. If they moved to another conference, would they be able to keep these rivalries going?

Notre Dame would also keep their contract with NBC if they remained Independent, but is it worth it? There is a statistic that shows that the University of Indiana is making $13 million more than Notre Dame in television revenue a year. May I remind you that the University of Indiana is a part of the Big Ten Network? So would the loss of their contract with NBC really hurt the school? Who knows. I guess its a risk the Irish would just have to take.

All in all, there really is only one good option for the Irish to choose. That is option two, to move to the Big Ten. Although many Irish fans do not want the school to lose its prestigious Independent label, this would make sense from a sports and money perspective. The Irish may lose a USC from their schedule, but they add an Ohio State, so the strength of schedule would not really change. If you take into consideration other sports, from a basketball standpoint, men's and woman's, this makes great sense. The Big Ten basketball is obviously weaker than the current home of the Big East. The men's team would get an easier schedule and a better chance for the NCAA tournament, while the women's team would also have an easier road to the Women's NCAA tournament. The women's team would also not have to play the dominant UConn twice a year, definitely a plus for them. And if money is the true issue here, the Irish would lose a contract and have to move to the Big Ten Network, but the Irish fan base is not going to change, whether they like the move or not. So, even though as a die hard Irish fan, and I never thought i would say this, its time to get a conference.