Does Notre Dame want to join a conference? No. Does Notre Dame have to join a conference? Yes. That second question was up for discussion, but even the Notre Dame number crunchers admit they have to join a conference. So what kind of deal can they get? Can they keep their mythical 'national schedule' and still be part of a conference?
The Big LEast is finished. The Big 5 power conferences aren't going to split the TV pie for some poor, weak, loser conference. They don't for the MAC or C-USA, and nobody (who matters) is going to do Notre Dame any favors. If Notre Dame salvages the Big LEast, they'll be forced to play a whole conference schedule. Why would the Big 5 allow Notre Dame the benefit of a Conference without the work? Pass a by-law requiring 8 team conferences (already the minimum for a conference) to play 7 conference games each. Then Notre Dame is stuck in a loser conference having to play 7 loser teams who can't even sell out their stadiums.
I have a gut feeling Notre Dame is going to be stupid enough to join the Big LEast thinking they can get some great deal, only to find themselves hosed by the Big 5 Conferences. The Big LEast is a trap that will destroy Notre Dame. Nobody wants to see Notre Dame-UConn. The Best Big LEast match-up would be Notre Dame-Pitt, and that already happens an isn't a marquee game. The TV deal is based on Notre Dame's schedule, if Notre Dame is forced to play a bunch of Big LEast losers with zero national or even regional appeal, the contract is worthless.
So what's the best for Notre Dame? Notre Dame prides itself on tradition- only the Big Ten can match that. Notre Dame prides itself on quality sports- only the Big Ten can match that. Notre Dame prides itself on academic excellence- only the Big Ten can match that. And Notre Dame actually plays the Big Ten very well. Similar styles of football and mindsets means Notre Dame beats Michigan, a team that nearly beat the National Champs, but gets destroyed by an ACC team that couldn't beat Michigan. Perhaps because Notre Dame belongs in the Big Ten, they play well against the Big Ten teams.
Joining the Big LEast or ACC would disasterous for Notre Dame. The ACC has said Notre Dame would have to be full members, but the ACC is almost as bad as the Big LEast. The ACC is filled with teams nobody supports and even the locals won't pay to see them play. There are (will be) two top football programs and both are notorious for thuggery and corruption. Maryland is 13-1 at home under Friedgen yet they've only been able to sell out 4 of those home games. Indiana has more sell-outs and they suck anywhere. Miami had trouble selling out their stadium when they were the top team in the nation. Nobody in Boston cares about BC, so why would they care about Clemson or North Carolina? That's the whole idea of the ACC expansion. Nobody in Maryland cares about Maryland, nobody in Boston cares about BC, nobody in Miami cares about Miami, but if all this apathy is combined, all those places that don't care about their own teams will suddenly care about the other teams nobody cares about. What?
This is what SHOULD happen. Since it makes so much sense, it probably won't.
The Big Dozen
Great Lakes Division:
The Notre Dame purists don't want a 'regional schedule' but since they're going to have to join a conference, they'll have to play one. Notre Dame plays 3 teams from the Great Lakes and the 5 other teams from the Midwest division. The next year, they play the other three teams from the Great Lakes they didn't play the year prior. So every team plays every other Big Dozen team in two seasons. Notre Dame's schedule would look like this:
YEAR 1----------------------YEAR 2
Week 1 @Navy------------Navy
Week 2 Boston College-Texas A&M
Week 3 @Stanford-------@USC
Week 4 USC---------------Florida State
Week 5 @Michigan------Ohio State
Week 6 Wisconsin-------@Michigan State
Week 7 BYE----------------Minnesota
Week 8 @Northwestern-BYE
Week 9 @Iowa------------@Indiana
Week 12 Indiana----------Illinois
Week 13 Penn State-----@Penn State
The final week of the season we have Ohio State vs Michigan at noon, Notre Dame vs Penn State at 4 PM. So most years the Conference Championship Game would be Notre Dame or Penn State vs Ohio State or Michigan, four of the greatest football programs of all times in terms of championships, wins and prestige. That game will often decide who plays in the National Championship game. That would be the best (most valuable) Conference Championship game of all. This would be the top football conference in terms of tradition, fan base, prestige, national interest, power and money.
The 2002-2003 Director's Cup (formerly known as Sears Cup) standings (as of May 29) are as follows (results for all NCAA athletic sports):
2- OHIO STATE
3- PENN STATE
6- North Carolina
10- NOTRE DAME
3 of the top 4 and half of the top 10 Athletic Programs would be members of the Big Dozen. In terms of budgets and results, the Big Dozen will be, by far, the best Athletic Conference, and with the CIC and continuing academic excellence, this would mean the Big Dozen is also the top academic conference of the major conferences.
Academics, tradition, football, athletic department, wealth, prestige. Notre Dame sacrifices all of those things if they join the ACC or the Big LEast. This makes the most sense for everybody involved.
The money cut Notre Dame would get in the Big Dozen would be slightly more than the NBC deal gives them now. Certainly not less. The top football conference with the top Conference Championship Game and the top bowl tie-ins would mean the most money to distribute. When Notre Dame gets to a BCS bowl, they made out huge, but that only happened once and with the College Football powers shifting, Notre Dame is going to get hosed and they won't be allowed into the BCS or keep the kind of money they did. Notre Dame has to join a conference, they don't want to but they recognize that fact. Since they do, they need to join the Big Ten and make The Big Dozen. But never underestimate the stupidity of people with Doctorates and Diplomas all over their walls.
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