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Friday, December 18, 2009

No Means No

posted by Mike Coffey
My mother is one of those social souls for whom exiting a party is three times the effort of entering. She'll say she's leaving, then run into someone on the way to the door. 10 minutes later, the process repeats. Eventually she finds her way out, but it usually involves half a tank of gas used up by my father, who had found his way to the car right after mom's initial pronouncement.

Having observed this phenomenon for over 40 years, I'm quick to recognize it when I see it elsewhere ... like in Notre Dame's repeated dalliances with the Big Ten conference (or, as I prefer to call them, the Integer). Having dodged this bullet in 1998, we now find ourselves looking down the barrel of the same gun, with the conference recently announcing a renewed effort to find a 12th member and participate in a championship game.

Like Michael Corleone, just when we think we're out, they pull us back in.

While we're sometimes accused of tilting at windmills on this topic, Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick isn't helping matters. While professing loyalty to the independent state of Notre Dame's football program, his statements to the press are peppered with phrases like "we'd sure like to try to maintain [independence]", which is now thought of as a "strong preference" that must be balanced with "implications" in the "industry" of college football while "scenarios play out".

Sounds a lot like those non-denial denials that were so in vogue during our two-week football coaching search. And like Oklahoma fans three weeks ago, we're a little uneasy.

With the Chicago Tribune endlessly beating the drum of Integer assimilation, columnist-by-default David Haugh can't resist chiming in either. A decade of reading his work has taught me that, while he may be erudite on a number of subjects, to call him semi-educated on the topic of Notre Dame and what makes it tick would be overrating him by several orders of magnitude. So for David (since I know he just tingles to read my stuff) and anyone else who may be unclear on the concept, let's review the issues.

Many reasons exist for ND to remain a football independent, regardless of how the "industry" goes. But those reasons get thrown into sharp relief when applied to a conference like the Integer, and can be summed up in three words: Geography, Diversity, and Differentiation.

Geography. Notre Dame sits square in the middle of the Integer's geographic footprint, so at first glance, it might seem to be a good fit. But the value of Notre Dame's brand (because, let's face it, this is a money discussion more than anything) was built based on national appeal. There's a reason update and op-ed columns regarding Notre Dame's pursuit of Brian Kelly were written for or published in Tampa and New York City and Chicago and Boston and Los Angeles and Washington D.C. and Seattle and any number of other cities. You don't waste column inches on stories in which no one is interested.

But how long will that interest be maintained if the Fighting Irish end up playing 9 of their 12 games every year in a Midwest geographic footprint against other teams from that same footprint? Sure, a Notre Dame/Michigan game will pull in national interest for a while. But a steady diet of ND/Minnesota? ND/Iowa? ND/Northwestern? Why should people in Florida and California and New York and Washington care about those games? How soon before their disinterest shows and Notre Dame becomes yet another marginalized regional school, pushed further behind the eight-ball due to its small graduating classes relative to those geographic "peers"?

Diversity. The Integer comprises ten large state universities and one private [edit] secular university. Outside of a desire for scholarship at the 20,000-foot level, Notre Dame has little, if anything, in common with any of them. Notre Dame graduates about two to three thousand people per year, while the Integer factory in total cranks out numbers in six figures. Notre Dame's graduation rate for undergrads typically operates north of 95 percent, and its rates for student athletes leads the nation. The rates for most of the Integer schools, by comparison, are downright embarrassing.

When you join a conference, the needs of the many supplant the needs of the few. Decisions get made by the majority, and with the masses of humanity on land-grant campuses who (based on the numbers) really don't give a rip about the academic side of things when it comes to their athletes, Notre Dame will be subjected to a steady diet of being on the wrong end of 10-2 and 11-1 decisions. Michigan and Ohio State have owned the Integer lock, stock and barrel for long and long. That ain't gonna change any time soon. The idea of voluntarily subjecting ourselves to their whims for 30 pieces of silver makes my brain hurt.

Differentiation. When a recruit comes to Notre Dame's campus, aside from being presented with the scholastic and spiritual ways in which Notre Dame is different from their competitors, they also see the opportunity to play a national schedule. Why limit yourself to games against your neighbors, the coaches can say, when you can play Southern Cal and Navy and Tennessee and Florida State and Pittsburgh and Oklahoma and Boston College and Arizona State, all of whom have appeared recently or will appear on future Notre Dame schedules? Why play just about all your games in flatland stadiums a bus ride away when you can play in Los Angeles, New York City, Washington D.C., Dallas, and Ireland? Granted, the 7-4-1 abomination is hurting Notre Dame in this area in the short term, but that's a self-inflicted wound that could be healed up should the program desire.

Think about how that discussion changes if Notre Dame joins the Integer. How would we differentiate ourselves from the Michigans and Ohio States of the world? We'd all be located in the same area of the country. We'd all play the same schedules. Why should they come to Notre Dame and have to apply themselves when they can just skate by as a Buckeye or Wolverine? Integer membership makes it all the more difficult to set ourselves apart from a rather low caliber of company, and this holds true not only for football but perhaps even more so for Notre Dame's other sports.

Those who favor conference membership have their mantras, of course. Haugh points out that "an independent Notre Dame team with two losses by midseason -- the rule more than the exception lately -- struggles to find motivation. A Big Ten team with two losses by midseason after expansion would have a shot to win its division and play in the lucrative conference title game."

What he fails to note is a two-loss Notre Dame team doesn't deserve to play in a "lucrative conference title game" or any other high-profile contest. They should earn their way into those games like they always have in the past. The solution is to improve the product on the field so standards are met, not dumb down expectations to the point that a "conference title game appearance" is viewed as something to applaud.

National Championships are remembered forever by the people who saw them. Conference titles are recorded on banners that everyone sees but no one looks at. The BCS gives mediocrities access to the championship structure by virtue of their membership in a particular group of teams. And yet those mediocrities scream about how Notre Dame gets "special treatment", even though you'll never see a 9-3 ND team even sniffing a BCS bid like Purdue and Stanford have in the past. Even Alanis Morisette would find that ironic.

Notre Dame is a national brand because of the efforts of those who came before -- Rockne, Leahy, Hesburgh, Joyce, Parseghian, Holtz. Joining the Integer will effectively undo those efforts more effectively than just about any choice I can fathom. Becoming a small regional school with a small regional following may be attractive to those who want the money but don't want to make the effort, but to those alumni and fans who believe those heights can be reached, it smacks of being lazy and cheap, neither of which are words I want associated with my school.

Let's also not forget these people hate us. There's no love lost between Notre Dame and any Integer school at any level, from the alumni and fans on up. The Integer and its members benefit from Notre Dame's involvement much more than the other way around, and all they're interested in is our money and the reflected attention they can get from us. If Joanna Barnes could make herself look like a crappy football stadium, it'd be a natural.

So Jack, the next time a reporter or alumnus or anyone else asks you what Notre Dame's interest in Integer membership is, there's no reason to be complicated or to hedge. Keep it simple.


The car is running, and gas is expensive these days.

For those of you who might feel the need to print this out and mail it to our friend Jack, his address is:

Jack Swarbrick
Director of Athletics
University of Notre Dame
C113 Joyce Center
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Remember, every little bit helps, and snail mail always gets more attention. Forward it to your friends and encourage them to do the same.

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Blogger Ed said...

Who is the private non-secular institution in the Integer? Minnesota?

Pathetic error.

12/18/2009 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

One of those errors I've been unable to purge from my repertoire. I've made the applicable correction.

12/18/2009 03:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

There is simply no excuse not to continue our unique pursuit of academic, athletic and spiritual excellence, no matter how difficult the external world makes it for us.

12/18/2009 03:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Rock said...

Spot on. Btw- The most ironic part about the song "Ironic" is that it does not give examples of irony, instead giving examples of misfortune and coincidence.

12/18/2009 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger Scranton Dave said...

Well said Mike. I would be sickened beyond what I can even possibly describe if we joined the Big 10, which I like to call the Big Fraud. Let me cover a little of what you didnt say too much about. The Big Ten is awful right now and I dont see that changing anytime soon. They have been embarrased the last 3 years in Bowls, including 0-6 in BCS games ( half those games Big 10 teams didnt even deserve to be in) and they were 1-6 overall last year. We need to improve the product on the field like you said and hopefully Coach Kelly will get us there. Go Irish!!

12/18/2009 04:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well put. Nice to see Y'all playing nice for once. Let's keep up the unity. Vital, I believ, at this juncture form then ND program as a whole. Go Irish! Big ten sucks anyways!

12/18/2009 04:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a graduate of an "Integer" research-based institution, I believe many others similarly situated find ND alums to be the most annoying of the lot, the university itself is a beacon for many. Football aside, I think the arrogance many of you exhibit on these boards and in public diminishes the university's overall appeal. Let's try to practice a little humility, including in football riches. For the record, as a Catholic, I treasure ND and how it enhances the world.

12/18/2009 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe it is good to study all of the options, and that includes remaining independent. The Big Ten is but one option as far as conferences are concerned. A thorough evaluation of the pros and cons is not outside the role of an outstanding academic institution like Notre Dame.

12/18/2009 05:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For decades Notre Dame has held a unique position in American college athletics as a great football powerhouse that was also an outstanding academic institution and a Catholic college. Those days are long gone, however, as ND will never reclaim its past football glories without compromising its academic standards. It's wonderful to pretend that that can happen, but eventually the truth will become evident. NBC may renew the football contract again, but if ratings slip ND will become just another top college, nothing really special. To look down your noses at this opportunity is both arrogant and foolish.

12/18/2009 05:33:00 PM  
Anonymous dbldomer7375 said...

The question of Integer membership was first by Rockne. The answer is still "no."

Well, maybe now is should be "hell, no."

12/18/2009 06:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Big Ten is awful right now and I dont see that changing anytime soon."

Huh, kinda sounds like the Notre Dame football program. See, you are the perfect fit!

"They have been embarrased the last 3 years in Bowls, including 0-6 in BCS games ( half those games Big 10 teams didnt even deserve to be in) and they were 1-6 overall last year."

Coming from a fan of a team who has won one bowl game since what? 1994? Come on, ND fans of all people have no room to talk about getting embarrased in bowl games.

It's funny that ND fans still think they are better than everyone else. Fortunatly, Weis drove that football program into the ground and made them entirely irrelevant. As a Big Ten student and fan, I am thrilled that ND has no interest in joining. But hey, no worries, you won the national title in '88 right? So at least ND fans have that to fall back on and talk incessantly about for the next 30 years.

12/18/2009 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger Scranton Dave said...

Hey anonymous, if you are going to put me down at least tell me who you are. I dont post under anonymous. I dont think Notre Dame or its fans are better than others, but you are wrong about several things.

Weis didnt run the program into the ground, he just wasnt a good head coach and his staff wasnt that good either. Weis at least recruited very well and left a lot of talent for Coach Kelly and we are not "entirely irrelevant"

Being a Big 10 fan, I'm not surprised with the stupidity of your opinions, especially being glad Notre Dame doesnt want to come to the Big 10. It would be the best thing that can happen to that lifeless conference.

Your championship game between Ohio St and Iowa shows how lifeless that conference is. Game tied at 24 with 4 minutes left and Ohio St sits on the ball and punts to Iowa playing not to lose. After the punt Iowa gets the ball at their own 32 with a minute and change left and instead of trying to get into FG position, they run out the clock. The OT was equally awful, Iowa went backward and out of FG range to start the OT and Ohio St, only needing a FG to win, didnt even try to score a TD. They were content to run 3 times and attempt a FG. I wish he missed and Ohio St lost, it would have been funny to hear Coach Vest spin his conservativeness like he always does. I cant wait to see Ohio St get embarrased by Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

12/18/2009 07:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny to here the Big Ten apologists discuss football matters as though they are the only reason why ND would not join that conference. ND does stand above those schools in many aspects, primarily acedemic standards. I applaud Michigan and Northwestern for their commitment to these values but has anyone looked at the only prominent football school left in the Big Ten? OSU? Come on, their graduation numbers are pathetic to say the least. This is where ND will always hold the advantage. And I will back those values win or lose. John Callipari anyone? Go Bob Night, Go Irish!

12/18/2009 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger Scranton Dave said...

Another great point Mike made was that everyone involved with the Big 10 hates Notre Dame. Look no further than how awful the officiating was and how one sided against Notre Dame and for the Big 10 schools it was in the 2 games the Big Ten officials were used ( Michigan and Michigan State, and the refs get at least half the blame along with our D for the Michigan loss), do we really want to deal with that for 8 games a year?

12/18/2009 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger gb70 said...

Mike, thanks for this well-articulated, well-reasoned post. Football independence is one of several elements that make up the Notre Dame identity. If we lose that, we are on our way to losing our sense of who we are, and that is simply not worth whatever short-term revenues we may pass up.

12/18/2009 08:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave, I am not "putting you down", I am just simply saying that you shouldn't talk crap about others recent bowl records when yours is pathetic to put it lightly. You are fully entitled to your opinion but you shouldn't base your opinion on recent bowl records when you are 1-5 in your last 6 BCS games and 1-9 in bowl games in the past 15 years.

"Being a Big 10 fan, I'm not surprised with the stupidity of your opinions, especially being glad Notre Dame doesnt want to come to the Big 10. It would be the best thing that can happen to that lifeless conference."

First off, the Big Ten is not only looking at athletics, but also academics. Notre Dame is not a member of the AAU (though could be if they desired) and is not a large research institution so from an academic standpoint, they are not a great fit. Pitt and Mizzou bring more to the table academically because they are research institutions and could offer more to the CIC. Don't think that I am saying that Notre Dame is not a very good academic school because they definitely are and I highly respect ND academics.

Bringing ND to the Big Ten would no doubt bring a buzz in the media and around the nation for a while, but it's not like we would be bringing in Florida or Texas or a perrenial title contender that would raise the talent level and national recognition of the B10 to a level of the SEC or Big 12. I hope you don't believe that Notre Dame would dominate the Big Ten.

"Your championship game between Ohio St and Iowa shows how lifeless that conference is."

Haha yeah you are right, that one single game showed that our conference is worthless and inferior. And make fun of OSU and Iowa all you want but both would beat ND on a yearly basis if they were to join the B10.

And for the record, I too look forward to seeing Ohio State getting killed by Oregon.

"ND does stand above those schools in many aspects, primarily acedemic standards."

Haha so then can we assume that you did not go to Notre Dame?

12/18/2009 08:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an alum with many relatives who attended Integer schools, I find one of the biggest differences lies in Notre Dame's approach to academics. While recent efforts by Fr. Jenkins and co. have tried to elevate the stature of the graduate programs, Notre Dame's strength (still) lies in its superior liberal arts-based undergraduate education. That's something sorely lacking at Integer schools. Call me arrogant, but high school GPAs, test scores, the percentage of the student body that continues on to graduate or professional studies, and graduation rates (not to mention the mandatory classes for freshmen and sophomores) prove me right in this respect. Membership in the Big Ten not only would be a poor fit for the football program (for reasons already highlighted above), but also from an academic perspective.

Athletic department officials, as well as University brass, should focus on enhancing the school's status as a superior undergraduate education and football independent and let this dead dog lie.

12/18/2009 09:05:00 PM  
Anonymous bobbnd said...

Well-reasoned post, but there wasn't any need to put down "Integer" schools for any reason. We still have the "national brand" in college football, but it's been fading ever since Holtz was eased out.
Clearly, this trend can't continue much longer. If Kelly can't reverse it, then people will say he was the wrong choice, but IMHO he was the best coach available at the time.

When ND joined the Big East for everything but football, I thought, and still do, that it was a great move. Non-football sports were somewhat foundering
and the Big East has helped them get at least a regional presence, if not a national one.

My point is: The "brand" is still alive, wounded. but not dead. As an alum, I don't wan't to ever see it die. "Death" would be somehow having to join because we are no longer relevant on a national stage. At this point in time,"Integer" still needs us more than we we need them. Kelly's job is not only to keep it that way, but to make it a laughable proposition, like it was FOREVER until Lou got bumped out.

12/18/2009 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger TBat said...

I think a lot of people just want to see ND join a conference out of jealousy.

Let's face facts. Every Big Ten team envy's ND's status. They envy ND's national TV contract, they envy ND's preferential access to the BCS, they envy ND's national brand appeal.

Joining a conference would take all of those things away from ND, thus bringing ND down to their level.

Deep down it stems from pure jealousy.

Not a team in the country, especially in Big Ten, can survive on it's own like ND does. People resent ND for that.

12/18/2009 11:27:00 PM  
Anonymous RockMcD said...

Over the past few years that I've been reading this site I find that I agree with almost nothing that Coffey writes. Nothing personal. But for this particular article I agree with everything 100%. Well said.

12/19/2009 02:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Notre Dame is so irrelevant, tell me why every sporting outlet, print and broadcast, were following the search for a new head coach at Notre Dame?

Could it be the wealth of talent the Irish have thanks to the recruiting of Charlie Weis to be carried on by Brian Kelly?

The only element ND lacked the last two years had been a strong coaching staff. Now we look forward to what will happen with the coaching ability that Brian Kelly and his team of coaches will bring to the table.

Big Ten...you are inferior to what Notre Dame offers. Truth be known, the Big Ten would give almost anything to have ND as their 12th member. Dream on.


12/19/2009 02:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an ND alum in the Chicago area. I think you need to look what was happening with our hoops program. It was on life support until we joined the Big East. It literally breathed life into the program. Football could suffer a similar fate, don't kid yourself. And we would still have national appeal playing in the Big 10. Eight conference games, 4 OOC games against USC, Navy, Stanford, Texas. You think those schedules wouldn't blow away what we are currently being served, Mike? Would you rather play in Madison, or play the likes of
USF and Western Michigan? Open your eyes. I'm convinced this move needs to happen. A one loss ND team will never play for a national championship as the BCS is set up. The coaches poll will block vote us out. Would you rather have your conference members helping you get in? In fact, with the current 7-4-1 model, the schedules are so bad, that I would bet the house a 1 loss SEC team would get in the title game ahead of an unbeaten ND. There is no way ND would've been in the title game this year if we were undefeated. It's almost impossible to go undefeated. We've done it exactly twice in 60 years. Ask Pete Carrol how hard it is tyo go undefeated. Ask Lou Holtz. Do you think the NBC contract had anything to do with 1993? So this independence stance has already cost us at least on title. The point is: Do you want to win titles? Then what is the best way to do that? I think you guys are way off base hear. I know several lifelong ND fans who think this is a good idea. You don't think we should play any meaningful games with two losses? That's just silly. Explain that to the players. I think you're way off.

12/19/2009 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Johnny said...

Big East is the place we oughta be. Conference teams have passed ND in "the money making business." Facts are every SEC team got more money from TV than ND this year. Not being in a conference during these corrupt BCS times has put our team at a real disadvantage on the playing field. The conference refs are sticking it to us, big money leads to this kind of thing. If you think that is a conspiracy theory, go talk to the NBA ref in jail now on how systems like that work. Big East would keep our geographic diversity and we could keep USC, Purdue and Navy as regulars.

12/20/2009 08:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that some of our posters above refer to the Big 10 as the "Integer" conference shows why so many people believe us Notre Dame fans to be obnoxious and arrogant. It's sadly true.Yes, we are still the #1 "brand" nationally in football, but we are basically spending the capital from 20-30-50 years ago. We've lost four big recruiting factors from those days (1) coaches could say "we're on national tv every week so your Mama can watch ebvery game"--well every game is on TV on the dish every week so every mama can watch her son play, (2) we were the dream team for every Catholic player. Now in a secular USA that's less of a factor. (3) we were able to sneak in marginal academic student-athletes. Now I think we all know what the admissions department has done in that area. (4) Our stock of players in the NFL is far, far below what it was even ten years ago. Don't you think prospective four star recruits look at that?

Has anyone seen the ratings on the TV broadcasts of the past few years? The next contract (pray that it's renewed) won't be nearly as lucrative.

Sorry that I, too, want to remain anonymous.

12/20/2009 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger IrishNittany said...

I agree that the Big Ten offers nothing for Notre Dame and in fact would subtract from what makes ND special. However, independence may not necessarily serve the Irish best in this day and age. IMO, as another poster suggested, the Big East offers what the Irish seek while allowing enough non-conference games to sustain the Irish's barnstorming tradition with SC, MichSt, Purdue, etc (albeit while dumping the 7-4-1 format which sucks). The schools in the Big East are diverse and more similar to ND than the hulking state schools in the Big Ten. I also feel that a 1-loss ND team (possibly an undefeated one) has no chance of playing for a BCS championship and disagree with a poster who said a 2-loss ND team doesn't deserve having anything to play for like a conference division championship to get it into a conference title game. Sounds like that is coming from someone who has either never played football or never played on a team that was mathematically eliminated from it's championship goal with more than 1 or 2 games left to play. Football is drudgery when you had only 1 goal and it was erased early in your season. Has nothing to do with dumbing down the expectations, rather it's being realistic and that's what players want. Look at the records of teams playing in highschool playoffs. 1 or 2 losses means nothing b/c they still have goals to play for and I believe that means something to players being recruited. It is worth investigating now that it's no longer a financial issue since most conference members enjoy more $$$ from their tv contracts and bowl tie-ins.

12/20/2009 02:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good article. I can't believe you could be so spot on with your football commentary but so wrong in regards to hoops.

The football program rightfully replaced Weis and will not join the Big 10 but you support Brey hanging around for another couple of NIT appearances. And please spare me the expenditures and facilities excuse. I know all about them and it has nothing to do with having a soft team that can't play defense.

12/20/2009 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Johnny said...

Relevance is a funny thing. I keep seeing people debate the relevance of ND Football. Sorry folks, just being tabloid newsworthy does not make you relevant to the arena you seek to compete in. Sarah Palin, Jon Goslin, Balloon Boy, and now Tiger Woods have proved that. Entertainment Tonight and ESPN like to report train wrecks. ND needs to join the Big East and become relevant to College Football in the 21st Century instead of being the Jon Goslin of the Entertainment industry or the Sarah Palin of Politics. - ND Class of '89

12/20/2009 06:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a member of the Integer I completely agree with your comments and equally hope ND is never a member. Even with their own TV deal and special BCS rules they continue down the inevitable road of becoming completely irrelavent. (Although I am of course sure the moderator will decide this post unworthy!)

12/20/2009 07:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

getting hammered in bowl games, particularly, BCS bowl games, declining brand, mediocre results, stuck in stodgy tradition while the rest of the world passes by, central roles in the hypocrisy of the BCS...seems like ND and the Big Ten have some things in common. Sounds like a fit. ND will try to do whatever makes ND the most $$$. So will the Big Ten. Why pretend it works any other way?

12/20/2009 07:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike S said...

Ed...the private non-secular institution is Northwestern...look it up...in fact, I'll even do the research for you and point you in the right direction:


12/21/2009 11:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Mattare said...

Agreed Mike, well articulated argument.

12/21/2009 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger Len said...

Why lock football in to any conference. Stay unique. GO IRISH

12/22/2009 05:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article cracked me up. Time has passed ND by:

Georgraphy: Who are you kidding? ND's appeal is that it is one of two Catholic schools in FBS. ND is playing a 7-3-2 schedule next year, and 5 non-BCS teams, including a MAC team. One of the road games is against MSU. The two neutral sites are against service academies. What is the national appeal of that?

Diversity: Not sure what the points about diversity are here. ND's elitist attitude and obvious lack of diversity) is somehow better? Keep dreaming.

Differentiation: There are some good points here that ND would have trouble going toe to toe with Michigan and Ohio State. How is getting stomped by USC in LA, playing Army in NY, Wash St. in Tx, and Navy in Ireland such a great recruiting tool?

ND is playing in a de facto conference right now. How the hell did Stanford become a rival? They are pretty much locked into playing the same Big 10, Pac 10, and Big East teams every year, with some fluff fillers (many of which they have been losing too). They have very few SEC, ACC, and Big 12 games in the future. They won't even go on the road against most Big East Teams.

How the hell does that match up with pre-1994 football when there were still independant powerhouses besides ND? ND helped corrupt NCAA football rather than lead it with its NBC contract and complicity with the BCS. Now we have Army, Tulsa, and Western Mich to show for it. Ya, so much better than the Big 10. Dream on.

12/30/2009 10:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article, Mike.

1/13/2010 09:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm amazed at the amount of Big Ten readership this site garners. Ah yes, Notre Dame is so irrelevant.

3/09/2010 02:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First I agree that ND football needs to stay indy. Rock makes good points in that ND is not really a cultural fit for the Big 10.

Also, I think some of the schedule bashing in recent years has been unwarrented. How can anyone in a conference say anything when 2 of their first 4 games are against lowly mid-majors or div II teams? I mean last year when ND was losing to Navy, powerhouse teams like Texas and Florida where playing cupcakes.

The 3-9 year 3 years ago we played just about every major conferences' champion. If we had a good team that would have been a great year schedule wise.

I agree that the CMU game is an embaressment, and the 7-4-1 crap needs to go. I mean you are independent and can play anyone so why in the hell place artificial parameters on yourself?

All they really need is a little tweaking. Bring back some home and homes against quality openents and that in addition to our regular slate of regional and rival foes should suffice.

Last point is that winning solves a lot of problems. If Kelly can bring us back to our winning ways then the critics of our standards and independence will all have to shut up, which is what all ND truists really want. It has been so long, 16-21 in the last 3 years and 91-68 (.572) since Holtz departed. Winning is the answer and the rest will fall into place.

Our schedules have been strong enough that if we went undefeated we would be in the championship game. I will agree that we will likely never win a NC with 1 or more losses. That was proven pre BCS when Holtz went 12-1 and 11-1 and couldn't even get a split NC.

3/09/2010 04:25:00 PM  
Anonymous BigEddie said...

While I get the last two points, the geography point doesn't make any sense. You know ND has a national alumni and subalumni base, and that's not going to change based on the schedule. And I'm sure you can find articles written in various newspapers across the country about the Rich Rodriguez to Michigan coaching search, and you will when Tressel retires at Ohio State too. I just don't buy this argument at all.

3/10/2010 12:40:00 AM  
Anonymous martini'90 said...

I agree with every point Mike made, but still think that Jack Swarbrick is taking thd right approach in not slamming the door. The Interger could not add a single member that would make joining appealling, nor could it have enough impact on the Big East to force major reallignement.

But what if the overall plan is to expand to 16 teams? A "Big 16" that extended from Texas to NYC would be way more interesting to ND than the current Interger with ND as the 12th (and final) member. Add to this the end of the Big East as a BCS plyaer, difficulties scheduling USC in an expanded Pac-10 and "Big 16" domination of Northeastern media markets, and it would be very diffuclt for ND to refuse.

Big 16 East Big 16 West
Ohio State Minnesota
Michigan Wisconsin
Michigan State Iowa
Purdue Northwestern
Rutgers Illinois
Pittsburgh Indiana
Penn State Texas
ND or Syracuse Missouri

3/10/2010 10:11:00 AM  
Anonymous ChiTown Bill said...

If Notre Dame is so irrelevant, why do they consistently have headlines on ESPN, SI and other sports sites? I have several friends who attend big ten schools, and they constantly tell me how irrelevant ND is, and that is my response to them. The B10 will MAYBE get 3 or 4 headlines a week, while ND is on almost every day, sometimes twice. It all arises from jealousy that the B10 actually had a relatively, and I repeat, relatively good year last season when it comes to football so they finally have a glimpse of something to try to rub in our face. Nobody on either coast or in the south gives a crap about the state of the Wisconsin football program, and nobody in the country knows or cares that they could be very very good next season, but EVERYBODY knows about the current state of the ND football team, where they are heading, and what an impact on the national college football scene they have.

3/10/2010 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the opinions being expressed are based on the choice Notre Dame has...remain independent or join a conference.

Where I believe those who are opposed to joining a conference, and some say regardless of the reason, are making a huge mistake are these scenarios:

1. The BCS adopts a rule saying that only BCS Member Conferences can play in a BCS Bowl...including the National Championship Game.
2. The Big Ten, ACC, and the PAC Ten add teams that by any logical opinion would dictate that Notre Dame must join one of those conferences.

My point is that to say NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE would be cutting our throats.

Remmber that we are talking about the entire athletic program at Notre Dame...not just football.

There must be open minds on this issue. I don't believe the Board Ops of NDNation qualifies in that regard.

3/10/2010 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Joe Schaefer said...

As the conferences expand, who will Notre dame play? We are already seeing the impact in schedule quality with open dates facing us in the very near future with apparently no prospects in sight. ND plays three Big 10 schools now. And it routinely played four teams in the past, when the Big Ten had only nine members and when ND played only 9 games a year. Yet, we played SC and Navy every year and some times Oklahoma,Texas,UCLA,and others. I think the correct number of required conference games is 8 not 9. The opportunities to play on both coasts still remains. SC, Stanford, BC, and Navy would still be possible. So, I don't buy the argument these games would no longer be possible. (One should also remember that a few years ago, Heisler committed ND to play 3Big East teams every year.(3+3=6, leaving 6, not 9 other possibilities) Also, with the Big 10 splitting in to two divisions, the conference championship would be the 13th game.

Most of your argument is all wet on tactical grounds; however, my biggest criticism of your argument is that it is typical Notre Dame smuggery. The Big 10 is a collection of high quality academic institutions. Their students strive to achieve as do ours. So, they hate us. I think you will find that deep down hate for Notre Dame exists in the big conferences throughout the country and for that matter among some of the teams we play now, such as BC, SC, and in basketball, Marquette and DePaul. That's life, so get over it. I think if you care to look, you will find the Catholic students at these universities have quite active Newman Centers, doing the same stuff as Notre Dame. And since Notre Dame now offers only one three hour course in Theology (versus the 12 I had along with 12 hours of philosophy) Notre Dame isn't quite as Catholic as it appears.

In short, Mike, conference membership is being driven by supply and demand and the promise of greater riches. And besides, I think some of the best Notre Dame games I ever saw were the Iowa games in the 50's.

Joe Schaefer ND '59
Universal City TX

3/10/2010 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger M1EK said...

It's kind of ridiculous how you imply the acedemic standards of the Big Ten are like the SEC. Who, I say, who topped this list this year:


Why, it's one of your old pals currently in the Big Integer. Imagine that. The other two Big Integrites on the list didn't do too badly either.

Maybe Paterno wants you guys in the conference so he can have yet another school that cares as much about acedemics as he does - ever think of that?

3/10/2010 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger MMQ said...

Mr. Coffey,

You are, sir, without a doubt, the epitome of what makes, as you stated, everyone hate Notre Dame. Twisted logic, inferiority superiority, and living in the past while the ever changing world of college football, and university money in general, changes around you. Let me address your 3 main reasons as to why you shouldn't join the "Integer":
1. Geography. The Big 10 has enjoyed Pac 10, Big 12 and ACC alliances for preseason non-conference games for decades. Michigan and UCLA played in the early 80's in what eventually became a Rose Bowl Rematch. So, to suggest that you lose your ability to play teams from all over the country is false. You should have stated, "We will be able to maintain losing to teams all over the country." That would have been more accurate.
2. Diversity. Really? A bunch of lily white catholics want to talk about diversity? I don't think you want to go there.
3. Differentiation. Yeah, there's that. But seriously, if that's how you want to be viewed in your football world, well, then I guess you have kissed all hope of national titles good bye...

Mr. Coffey, I think you need to wake up and smell your namesake. This is about $$$$. And $warbuck$ has probably had some early discussions with NBC and discovered that your brand isn't doing so hot with the advertisers. And that's led him to look at the $22M per school that each Big 10 team received last year from ESPN and the Big 10 network. That's an awfully big security blanket to thumb your nose at.

In addition, if anyone thinks that an undefeated Domer team going up against 2 or more undefeated Championship teams will get the nod, public attitudes not withstanding, I think you are truly disillusioned and haven't been paying attention to recent history. Notre Dame isn't what it used to be. In fact, I honestly believe that if Weis would have pulled off an undefeated season, Texas and Alabama would have still been the two teams playing for a National Title in 2009. That's why you need the Big 10. Without it, you're on the outside looking in at the BCS landscape....

3/10/2010 02:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems like No may now be Maybe.

3/10/2010 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Joe Schaefer said...

It was interesting to see the number of comments about ND joining the Big East in football. It's too late for that now. And now it appears the Big 10 is looking at Rutgers. Had ND seen the "writing on the wall" back then, it probably would have saved Big East football by joining and likely thereby keeping BC, Virginia Tech, and Miami in the Big East. More to the point. ND has had some severely incompetent athletic directors since Dick Rosenthal retired (Wadsworth and White)The same can be said for the presidency since Fr. Hesburgh retired. The manner in which the Kimberly Dunbar affair was handled, the way Holtz was run-off, and up to now a "head in the sand" approach to the implications for Notre Dame of conference expansion was addressed. The current AD is not foolish enough to go down that latter road. He may not have a choice. The squeeze is already on. The Big 10 will only play the MAC on open dates and the ACC and SEC play Div II schools on their open dates.

Joe Schaefer ND '59
Universal City TX

3/10/2010 04:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So from the article I can assume the position you take would be to cover your ears, close your eyes and drown out the change that is taking place; with or without ND.

You can keep praying for it, however it is never going to be 1968 again. Or 1978. Or 1988.

ND can take a leadership role and have a say in determining the fate of its' conference affiliation: or it can wait for the dust to settle and then choose from what is left.

Maybe there will be some room, and it really can become the MAC daddy it once was...

3/10/2010 06:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, your article is neither well reasoned nor impartial. It is arrogant, shortsighted, and foolhardy. Your article is also poorly researched. All those who agree with you fall into those same categories.

I'm an ND fan for life, a graduate of the school, and legacy. So don't try to pretend I'm some dumb big 10 honk.

Articles and attitudes like this make me absolutely despise the people I went to school with and cheer with on weekends.

Marley '05

3/11/2010 03:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

Funny that you conveniently ignore the fact you already play a mini Big 11 schedule already when talking about how games against Minn, Iowa, and NW bring nothing to you on a natioanal scale as if Purdon't and Sparty which you play every year do?

Typical moronic ND rationale. When all is said and done you will be in a conference, but you will be in the Big East and not the Big 10. Work on your academic standards and become a member of the AAU and then maybe you will be capable of joining the Big 11

3/12/2010 08:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look: Unless NBC is willing to pay the Irish at least $30 million A YEAR in football rights fees, ND will go to a conference. And they should.

ND Class of 78

3/12/2010 08:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The posters have proven one point painfully clear - both Notre Dame and the Big 10 have their fair share of braying, ignorant, condescending jackasses in their fan base. I hate the Notre Dame ones more, because I'm a an alumnus and lifelong fan. Please post responsibly.

3/12/2010 09:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Joe Schaefer said...

Considering the gravity of the scheduling issue, i.e., we join a conference (or form one)or, we do home-and-home with worthy opponents, I am surprised there has not been more dispute with regard to why Swarbrick seems to be hanging on with the 7-4-1 concept, especially since it has been such an abject failure. Anybody have any good reasons? Lastly, I am told that the last Navy "home game" negotiated by White gave ND a bigger share of the take (in Baltimore, I believe)than is normal because, it was Notre Dame! Thus, ND should get a bigger share of the gate because, the gate receipts would not have been any where as near as great had Navy put someone else on their schedule for that date. If so, Fr. Joyce, a staunch defender of the Navy series, would be rolling over in his grave.

Joe Schaefer ND '59
Universal City TX

3/16/2010 10:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand ND thinking, but why doesn't the B12 make sence?

Geography: It would differentiate ND in B10 country as Different. They would not become "like" schools they are surrounded by, Pur Ind Minn, etc. ND would stand seperate from the rest.

Recruiting: ND would be able to recruit B10 area, and also more nationally, and most importantly Texas. They would play games in the state of TX every year. As well as the Denver and Missouri (stl and KC) area. So ND would keep it's local B10 and east coat recruiting and open up new areas.

Schedule: They would play a huge name w/ Nebraska every year.. and be able to compete for Championships every year in the north. With being in the same conference as OU, TX, A&M and playing those schools every other year, but benefiting from being in a different division. Can still play service academies/USC/ and a B10 team every year.

Basketball: ND would flow right in w/ KU Mizz KSU in the north. and a fit for all ND minor sports would flow.

Championships: A one loss ND team that BEATS a TX or OU in B12 championship game will likely make a Nat'l Champ game. A 2 loss ND team beating OU or TX in B12 champ game would have strong consideration playing in Natl title game.

It just seems ND wants to remain indy.. but the biggest fear is joining the B10 will cost ND it's aura and hold their recruiting base to a smaller geographic area. While the B12 actually opens mkts up for ND both recruting wise and still keeps an aura about ND sitting in B10 country. It keeps ND Unique.

3/22/2010 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger sheprp said...

Mike, great analysis. Can't agree with you more ... but lets assume the world is changing in a big, big way. A new normal if you will. Big 10, Pac 10 want new members. Big 12 has some less than desirables they took on just the be able to call themselves Big 12. The SEC has some schools even the most rabid of fans hate to travel to. The Big East, well forget about it. If ND wants to be a member of an influential group and not just another member institution of some existing geographically constraint affiliation, and wants to maintain its national significance, it should drive this process rather than be driven by it. My new normal world has a college football conference that has a truly national footprint. Imagine a new national conference that ND helps form that comes from a list like this:
In addition to ND some geographically diverse mix of 11 other teams from a list like:
Penn State, Alabama, Tennessee,Georgia, Florida, GaTech, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Texas, TxA&M, Oklahoma, Nebraska, USC, Stanford, Washington.
It would taken a Herculean effort to put this together. Traditions would have to be tossed aside. Civil unrest may ensue in certain areas of the country. BUY the $$$ would be enouth to make the Vatican blush and its all about the $$$ afterall. IF ND moves toward a conference, let it be a conference of boldness, of significance and not one of the current offerings.

3/24/2010 10:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Notre Dame should jump on this pronto...but they probably won't due to pressure from alumni.

ND needs to realize this isn't the 1970's, where you're practically the only option for those elite athletes that want to be seen on national TV. Dozens and dozens of teams now get regular TV coverage. Why should a big time recruit down south go up there to play? Why bust your a$& in the classroom, when you can play ball in the SEC, major in motorcycle safety, and go pro?

3/30/2010 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

This is something that both sides of this argument need to get through their heads. The Big Ten does not need Notre Dame at all, and Notre Dame doesn't need the Big Ten. This is a mutual lack of need, not one-sided in either direction. Notre Dame is currently doing just fine, and last I checked, the Big Ten is THE most lucrative conference in America.

The list of institutions that are better fits for the Big Ten than Notre Dame is enormous. And that is just based on academic vision. Athletically, the Big Ten would be looking for a power in one of the two major sports, something that Notre Dame has failed to produce since the 1990's. This is not to disparage the Irish in any way. This is just the outside perception of the state of your institution's athletics. You can tell yourselves that you are relevant until you are blue in the face. To the nation at large, you are not. This is hard to accept. When the national championship is talked about yearly, the only people mentioning Notre Dame are Lou Holtz and Beano Cook. From outsiders, their opinions and credibility due to these baseless claims make them, at best, laughing stocks, and at worst, the people you feel sorry for.

When the dominoes fall, and they will fall, if the Big Ten does destroy the Big East or if it's destroyed by the ACC, Notre Dame will have to make a choice. This choice will have, in the eyes of their fanbase and alumni, two equally negative outcomes. They can choose to join a conference and give up independence, or they can remain independent and slip further into mediocrity.

4/13/2010 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger MMQ said...

Equally negative? Dude, get a clue...If you poll PSU alumni and fans (those that can remember) I think they will tell you that joining the Big 10 was the best thing that ever happened to that university....ND should feel lucky if it gets invited to the Big 10 yet again....

4/13/2010 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this comment applies to far too many of you to mention. DO ANY OF YOU KNOW HOW TO SPELL???

Please learn before to return to ranting about how much smarter you are than everyone else around you. It's embarrassing.


4/19/2010 11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure you can find a more poorly constructed sentence than "Please learn before to return to ranting about how much smarter you are than everyone else around you."

4/22/2010 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently you have not read most of the posts on this board.

4/23/2010 02:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you should look at the sentence you just wrote. I use the term loosely, insofar as it is not even a complete sentence.

If you were criticizing me for my typo (I mistakenly typed the word "you" as "to"), then you are correct. I made a typo. I am not a trained secretary and typing is not my strength. However, my comment was not directed at people making typos but people using "here" for "hear" or incorrectly spelling words because they do not know how to spell. Generally, I would not have mentioned even the poor spelling, but it was just too much to let slide when the error-ridden rants turned to blasting others for their intellectual inferiority.

4/24/2010 04:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Growing up in the eastern Ohio Valley, I grew up a fan of ND and Ohio State. I love the ND tradition and school. I will admit that the OSU tradition has tarnished a bit with since the Bruce era. That is not a jab, just an observation. That being said, I can see both sides of conference alignment.

First, the Big10 has lost it's credibility. The OSU win last season did not gain it back completely. It only stopped the belief that the only athletic benefit of being Big10 champ was the right to be humiliated on a national stage. However, the universities still get large bills for being invited.

This is where I go after ND's 'ignorance'. If I am not mistaking, OSU has recently played IN Texas, IN SoCal, etc. Not all games are against neighbors w/in a bus ride distance. The Big12 has the model structure. They have teams in each division that have powerhouse-potential. They have the ability to have major non-con games home and away. They have huge rivalries built in division and in conference. This can be accomplished with the Big10+2. ND can still have its UM, MSU, and Purdue in-division rivalry. It can have alternating OSU, PSU, IU conference rivalry games. And it can still have non-con games against USC, BC, Navy, Miami, or whomever it wants to schedule. Oh and by the way, in stead of losing money on a trip to the Hawaii Bowl, maybe we can get a percentage of the automatic bids PLUS I bet the division champion can get some pretty good bids as well.

Chris Chambers
ND & Big10 Fan

4/24/2010 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am a B10 fan not a ND fan, but otherwise, I agree with most of what you wrote. I also think ND is awfully quick to call out the B10 on its recent slide in football performance. ND would have been (at best) in the middle of the pack in the B10 the past few years. ND's schedule has been heavily watered down and they still can't make it to a bowl game (no, the Hawaii Bowl does not count as a bowl game -- it is as much of a joke as the Pizza Bowl).

ND should do whatever they feel is in their best interest. Stay independent. Join the Big East. Whatever. The B10 added PSU in the early 90's with great success. The B10 launched the B10 Network several years ago to even greater success. The B10 will expand again in the next couple of years and move forward, with or without ND, almost certainly to further success. The B10 is the #2 conference for academics (second only to the Ivy League) and runs neck and neck with the B12 and SEC for best overall athletic conference. If ND were in the B10, its graduate level academics would struggle to make the middle of the pack and its undergraduate academics would be behind NW and on a par with Michigan's. In terms of endowment, they would be around third or fourth.

ND is on the very short list (with Texas) for invitation to the B10 almost solely because of its historical significance in one sport -- football. With each passing year of mediocrity, ND's football cache declines. If I were ND, I would jump at the chance to join the B10 while the offer still exists. Regardless, the B10 will be adding 3-5 teams over the next few years (probably 2-3 from the Big East), all of which will be ecstatic to join. This will further enhance the B10 in athletics (and, hopefully, academics) and expand the B10's reach into the largest media market in the country -- New York/NJ/Philly. Having ND as one of those three teams instead of, say, Syracuse or Pitt or Rutgers is a no brainer, but it is not essential. The past 20 years have proven that. ND's future without the B10 is far less clear.

4/24/2010 10:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually that poster's comment that corrected you Matt is correct. His post has an implied subject and is a complete sentence. It might be time to hand your ND degree back in Matt.

4/25/2010 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that is a handy rule. Anytime I leave out something, I will just say it was implied. In that case, I apologize to everyone with bad spelling and grammar. I am sure the correct spelling and grammar were implied. Btw, you are missing a comma after the word "actually". Must be implied.

Note: I intentionally omitted the subject in my final sentence for effect. That is what you call an implied subject. In contrast, when you leave out the subject and don't even realize you did it because you do not know how to compose a sentence, that is called incorrect grammar. But, then, I am sure you knew that.

4/29/2010 08:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are you ignorami talking about grammar on an ND football blog? You give all football fans a bad name. ND is about to make the worse mistake in it's history by joining a conference and all you care about is subject structure. Go back to your dictionary Nerds!

4/30/2010 08:25:00 AM  

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