Tuesday, April 29, 2008

One for the Road

It's a tale of two cities on the Notre Dame scheduling front. Last week, the University of Connecticut backed down from a previous ultimatum, and agreed to sign a six-year deal with Notre Dame for football games that included their home games played at neutral sites. This week, Rutgers went the opposite way and backed out of negotiations because Notre Dame wanted the RU games played at the Meadowlands.

And now Harvey Araton of the New York Times tosses his two pennies into the fray. Good for Rutgers, says he, and fie on the Irish for pushing such unfair terms. What does the Big East need with Notre Dame anyway, since they look down on the conference with such disdain.

Setting aside for the moment the inherent instability of the Big East, it's perceived lack of value in football, and precarious standing in the BCS and bowl system to begin with, all of which Notre Dame salves with various signed agreements and association with the conference, and the pluses Notre Dame brings to the conference in the non-football sports, his overall point is good. I'm long on record with my opposition to 7-4-1. As a scheduling philosophy, it sucks cold diarrhea out of a dead cat's ass. Not only does it make for uninteresting matchups, it fails any litmus test of fairness, which the Notre Dame I grew up watching seemed always to be about. If you're going to play games against any school, you should be willing to play on their home turf at least once.

Just because people are willing to sell themselves to you for money doesn't mean you should take them up on it. I read stories like Ohio State canceling or moving games that were supposed to be played at Cincinnati, and it really rubs me in the similarly wrong way. It smacks of flop sweat and fear. God forbid the powerhouse program in the state test itself away from home. Perhaps if the Bucks weren't playing eight games at home every year, they wouldn't get waxed in bowl games the way they do. Just like ND's basketball scheduling philosophy, the 7-4-1 philosophy is rooted in revenue maximization, and even though "Come Sweet Cash" is an ND joke older than I am, it's still extremely off-putting to see it exhibited in such a bald-faced manner. A pimp dressed in green and carrying a shillelagh is still a pimp.

The only way to fight this tendency, both at Notre Dame and elsewhere, is to let the market speak. On the one hand, Connecticut decided the payday and exposure of a Notre Dame series was worth the PR hit with its fans by not bringing the Irish to Rentschler (which, it should be noted, isn't on UConn's campus either). On the other, we have the Scarlet Knights telling Notre Dame to take its ball and go home, literally. That's the best way to convince ND 7-4-1 is unworkable, although it's going to cost Rutgers in the short term. Maybe then when Alabama calls, Kevin White will find he has room in the schedule.

Having said that, the attitude Araton takes in the article is just as moronic as the 7-4-1 philosophy. It boils down to him criticizing Notre Dame for trying to leverage its prestige in order to gain terms more favorable to it. To try and brand ND as the only sinner in that congregation is a foolish enterprise. There's a reason the New York Times charges $330 to deliver in my neighborhood while I get my village's paper for free. I guess if Araton were running the organization, I'd have the Times on my doorstep every morning gratis, because, after all, it's not fair for the big bully NYT to force people to pay more for its content. I'm sure the folks who write for the Idaho Statesman or the Bangor Daily News would queue up to get Araton's salary --- why should he use his degree or his skill to demand a higher rate? I realize borderline Communism coming from the New York Times is hardly man-bites-dog, but they should keep it out of the sports pages.

When even mopey NYT scribes are hitting the mark on their Notre Dame hair-pulling, it's time for the Fighting Irish to re-examine their priorities. Would it kill them to go to Hartford or Piscataway at least once? Are they so focused on "no more heavyweights" in pursuit of the almighty dollar that we're doomed to slates of MAC teams? God I hope not.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have mixed emotions on this whole thing, but I do appreciate both positions: Rutgers and Notre Dame. I am surprised no one proposed some sort of home-away-neutral rotation e.g. RU-ND-Meadowlands-RU-ND-Soldier Field.

4/29/2008 11:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since we have played RU at RU recently I don't see why if White wanted them on the schedule he didn't go ahead and play them there. I can understand him proposing to play them in Giants Stadium, but when they didn't want to play there and I really don't blame them, he should have negotiated maybe a home/home and let that be the end of it. If he wants RU on a neutral field then he could add them to the list of illogical games he currently has lined up. RU vs ND in Kansas City would be about right.

But also we have to face it, everything ND football does is going to be nitpicked until we join a football conference. It just galls people we are still independent, fans of other teams and writers a like. The national media will never get on Ohio State's case because they are a conference member.

4/29/2008 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Colin said...

Your point about the writer is inconsistent with your argument. If you are arguing that Notre Dame football should not conduct itself like a business, then why compare us to a business? After all, the New York Times is a business. Their objective is to sell newspapers (and, to report the news). Ours is to...what? Win games? Sell tickets? Or, do both honorably? I think that's the soul-searching we are all doing.

Also, muddying your argument with a blanketed criticism of the New York Times really doesn't help you with loyal ND fans and readers, like me, who actually think the Times is a great newspaper.

All that said, I think the point still stands that Notre Dame comes out looking bad here. Will our Athletic Department cease its aggressive pursuit of bad press?

4/29/2008 12:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

because anything that's not on these teams' home field isn't a home game. Playing Rutgers at the Meadowlands would be just the same playing it at Soldier Field or the L.A. Coliseum.

None of the big east schools have the ability to out-sell the ND fan base at any site other than their own (and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if our fans hit e-bay for those tickets and put up a good crowd in those stadiums either).

4/29/2008 12:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rutgers made a huge mistake. They had one good season and seem to have forgotten the century+ joke that preceded it. They're going right back to the basement they came from. Maybe we should have played them on a Thursday night with all of the other middle schools across the country. That's the only time anyone actually watches Big East football.

4/29/2008 01:22:00 PM  
Anonymous jim Smith said...

Calling youarrogant and ignorant whenit comes to Rutgers is an insult to people who are only arrogant and ignorant.

It's not 1988 (when you were really good) or 1996-2002 (when Rutgers was really bad) anymore.

Stop talling about the RU program as if you are some kind of authority on it. DId you even know that Rutgers was the equivalent of a 1-AA team until the late 70s, playing teams such as Princeton and Lafayette regularly. It competted at a different level, plain and simple. DO your homework or get off your high horse.

4/29/2008 01:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 7-4-1 argument isn't the same as the "big stadium demands" argument. Related, but very different.

Should we play Navy at Navy's stadium? Having that in Philly and Baltimore is great for both teams.

If we're going to schedule UConn or BC or Navy (teams with very small stadiums and no real on-campus football tradition) -- then we should go for big stadiums for the away games. Can even give those teams 3/4 of the tickets (which would be well more than they'd fit in their own stadiums). And ND will get tickets for its many fans.

If we don't want to do that, then we should play our non-marquee series agaisnt programs with real stadiums and some on-campus tradition. There are plenty of those that still offer a modicum of patsy-factor for schedule balancing. Thinking teams like Virginia, NC St, OK St, Iowa, Arkansas, Arizona St..

4/29/2008 02:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What none of the sportswriters or you bloggers recognize is that playing a game in the Northeast once a year permits all the Irish faithful in that heavily populated area to try to see a game, whereas trying to get a ticket to see a game in a 40,000 seat stadium in Hartford, CN would be impossible for Irish fans.
Notre Dame keeps its identity as a national team by playing a game every year in the Northeast, on the West Coast, in the South, etc. Joining a conference would destroy that identity and decimate our national following eventually. STOP THE STUPID TALK ABOUT JOINING A CONFERENCE!!

4/29/2008 02:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rutgers stadium holds 40,000 people. Giants stadium holds 80,000. This is no different than Navy games being played at Ravens Stadium instead of the 35,000 seat Navy Stadium. I get your points on 7-4-1 and agree. We should have the flexibility in our scheduling to make room for better teams and this BE deal combined with the aforementioned policy limits (arguably eliminates) that flexibility. But other comments on this chain criticizing ND for making the request (as opposed to criticizing the policy) are absurd. Back to the 1AA Rutgers!

4/29/2008 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

I have no problem with ND playing neutral site games on occasion.

I have a very big problem with playing crappy teams in neutral site games that serve as de facto home games for ND.

We already play Navy in the northeast every other season. Why do we have to play there every year? How about playing Alabama in Atlanta, or Oklahoma in Dallas?

4/29/2008 02:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike ''73 said...

Mike Coffey and the Anonymous comment re: STOP THE STUPID TALK, summarize the salient points on this topic. 'Nuff said.

4/29/2008 04:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could be more sympathetic to the RU position if they didn’t show the same disrespect for other teams. Playing Morgan State (2008), Norfolk State (2007), Howard (2006) and New Hampshire (2004) all at home and having a deal with Buffalo that was a 3 home and 1 away arrangement leaves little for RU to complain about. I think in 2000 and 2002 ND had a home and away arrangement with Rutgers, so this isn’t a historic slap in the face.

4/29/2008 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

UConn plays in a smaller stadium and its a tough call to play there. They are also a relatively new team to Division I football, so there isn't much negotiating room for them. But the problem is that Rutgers' stadium is under renovation and will seat 55,000 by the time the game was going to be played. Its not the biggest stadium in the country, but let's not pretend its tiny either. ND stadium didn't seat much more than that until my freshman year (1997).

And the real problem is not just the attempt to play neutral site games against teams, its doing it while playing only four true road games. This would be much more palatable if the schedule was 6-5-1 and there was a reasonable rotation of games similar to what the first anon suggested (RU-ND-Meadowlands-ND-RU-Soldier Field).

4/29/2008 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man up and play good teams on the road. To heck w/ the BCS. The mid-season big games are just as good. And as a fan, they're the best. Who wants to see ND vs. Kent. So, you don't have the Dr. Pepper half time show and all the fluff.

4/29/2008 06:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We are not going to lose to the Pittsburghs and Purdues anymore..."

Ya, because they are no longer going to be on the schedule:

Hello San Diego State - Hello UConn

Goodbye Michigan - Hello Eastern Michigan

4/30/2008 07:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the biggest impediment for Rutgers agreeing to play at the Meadowlands was the political issues. Rutgers just got approval to expand their stadium to 55,000 seats, claiming to state legislators that this was a good stadium which would allow Rutgers to attract the top teams in the nation to come to Piscataway. Now Notre Dame coms in and is essentially telling Rutgers the stadium isn't good enough. Rutgers would have had a hard time explaining that to the State folks. In reality, I do think Rutgers made a poor business decision.

4/30/2008 07:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Husky and Scarlet Knights posters: ND has a 121 year history of doing very well, doing very poorly, and then going back to doing very well again. Rutgers and UConn? Not so much. Fans of lifetime .500 programs should be restricted from posting opinions.

UCONN: .496
Rutgers: .502

4/30/2008 08:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are we trying to schedule Rutgers or UConn??? They bring absolutely NO VALUE to our schedule. This shouldn't be about the 7-4-1. This should be about the crappy programs we are negotiating with. My God, get Alabama, Texas or Miami on the phone.

4/30/2008 08:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The plain fact of the matter is that if Notre Dame loses to either Rutgers or Connecticut, the loss will be publicized nationally as evidence that Notre Dame stinks and the program is in tatters, regardless of the season that Rutgers or Connecticut is having. Conversely, if Notre Dame beats Rutgers or Connecticut, who cares, the game will get a 4 line blurb in the NY Times and everyone will move on. Like a previous poster stated, Notre Dame gets very little out of these games, so making it out to be the "bad guy" here is off base. That being said, the Rutgers stadium seemed pretty electric when Lousville came to town in 2006 (at least on tv), so I don't have a problem with Notre Dame going there if they're going to play Rutgers. But in truth, Notre Dame should not downgrade their schedule -- keep playing Penn State (a win over Penn State is still good regardless of its record) and as other posters have mentioned, add Oklahoma, Alabama and the like -- big time schools mean big time games, to which Notre Dame should always aspire.

4/30/2008 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't make any difference what Rutgers football program is like. If we're approaching them to play then they must be good enough. If they're good enough, then we should have the decency to play them at their house, which will be a rennovated house by then. Shame on us, ND.

4/30/2008 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. When ND joined the Big East, there had to be a Quid pro Quo on scheduling football games with some Big East opponents. Fair enough...the Big East has been good for all ND athletic...So we rotate through the Big East teams and it comes Rutgers turn. For years Rutgers has been playing their games of note in the Meadowlands...it's nothing new to them. Rutgers had a nice run, whether it continues or not remains to be seen. The exposure to ND makes sense for them and going to the larger venue also makes sense...It's not like the Meadowlands is in another country.
2. Until a few years ago, I bet you didn't know CT had a football team. they are trying to grow and ND exposure helps. I always wonder when ND plays a supposed patsy they scheduled 10 year ago, if that wasn't a recruiting ploy on the other teams part...that they would be playing at ND.
3. I think ND and Navy both consider that the Meadowlands is a home game for both of them.
4. When I went to ND in the 50's...5oth reunion in five weeks....we played nine games, didn't go to a bowl, seated 55,000, football tix were part of tuition, no lights, four or five bowl games and we didn't go to any....times change.....teams that go undefeated from no name conferences get in to big bowls on the basis of a bogus record...It's not realistic to shave a top 25 schedule every week....this is not the pros where you can go 12-4 and be a top seed in the playoffs. Despite all the nonsense about strength of schedule, if you lose one game you risk no BCS and 2 losses in a normal year is fatal.
5. I have to tell you, in the last 8-9 years I was praying for just one laugher of a game every once in a while so you could replay the game and enjoy.
6. 9-3 this year....count on it.

Captain jack

4/30/2008 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

always love to get the digs on the buckeyes, who aside from the last two years, in which they lost in the national championship game, have won a National Championship and two BCS bowls under Tressel.

4/30/2008 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Ted n'ICT said...

ND should schedule a home and home with KU at Arrowhead. That would be the equivalent of a home game with the Jayhawks. Big draw for certain, and only 8-9 hours from South Bend.

4/30/2008 02:41:00 PM  
Anonymous FightingSonofNotreDame said...

Mike - Your points are very well taken regarding ND setting the standard and taking the high road in scheduling (referring to the 7-4-1 issue).

But we all know all too well that the current BCS committee nor mainstream press views strength of schedule as a passing thought and not a critical criteria of who gets a shot at the NC. This IS the unfortunate reality.

By scheduling powerhouse programs and tough teams in between those games we give our guys an incredible disadvantage. Even great teams have the odds stacked against them when the schedule gives them no reprieve as we know all too well from the NFL.

Because no one looks at strength of schedule in college football teams like OSU "seem" untouchable to the laymen who unfortunatley are the authority while our teams are downgraded due to a few losses against a stacked schedule (past year excluded).

While this present structure is in place we at least need to put together a reasonable schedule, still harder than every one else, but not ridiculously harder. There's a fine line of course.

Regarding the "neutral stadiums" for Uconn. I'm a domer who grew up 10 minutes from Hartford. Trust me, we're doing Uconn and ourselves a huge favor by playing at the Meadowlands! Hartford's a hole and every one in Connecticut knows it. Let's have some perspective here, this is a huge opportunity for Uconn football which was nothing when I was a kid. If they want to be big time they have to get their fanbase up and representing at places like the meadowlands, they have some pretty hardcore fans too.

I agree with an earlier writer on this site who spoke of ND's real heritage which is the keen marketing and business sense that Rockne had. Why do we have to go small and stoop down to the demands of the local governents these state schools answer to?

We need to continue to think big and bring the teams we play up by doing so. There's nothing arrogant about that.

5/01/2008 09:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Ken said...

"...it sucks cold diarrhea out of a dead cat's ass."
That is one of the most discusting phrases I've ever heard!

5/01/2008 10:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We should only give RU one game anyway. The last time they had a good team, we put them on the schedule and beat them 62-0 (1996) Give Ball State a call, they might go to NJ

5/01/2008 12:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think two things can be said, one the New York Times is full of left wing loons, who make ridiculous comments, or they are busy just making up the news, second I am not a fan of Kevin White, nor am I a fan of his 7-4-1 plan. I don't even begin to think that I speak for all fans, but maybe a few agree with me that nobody that pays good money, $1000 I think to be in the pool for home tickets, then you win tickets in the lottery and you get the Syracuse or Navy home game oh great (sarcasm) to see ND football games at home or on the road against creme puffs. As difficult as 2007 was to bear, would it have been better to have less losses, but more wins against lower level opponents? I say no! When I saw that we were going to be playing Rutgers and UCONN for a bunch of games in the next six or seven years it was just sickening. No disrespect to Rutgers or UCONN, but even with your addition to your stadium it isn't going to be considered a traditional power for many, many, years. Someone points out that Ohio State plays creme puffs only at home, well great for OSU if that makes their fans happy so be it, Notre Dame is not OSU, when Rockne coached the Irish he went anywhere to play the best, and that needs to continue. I want the Alabamas, Miami, Florida, Texas' of the world on the schedule, because when ND has the horses and by god in the next two or three years we will, we don't want to say well we made it to a BCS game because we beat a schedule that has Army, Navy, San Diego State, Rutgers, and UCONN on it! I want to say we beat Michigan, USC, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Miami because we played and beat the best! That is what made 1988 and 1993-barring the BC game so damn special!

5/01/2008 02:48:00 PM  
Anonymous NessMonster said...

Lot of good comments here, both pro and con the writer.

Me, I'm of two minds on this whole scheduling thing. I remember the utter contempt with which I viewed Miami in the '80s, when they'd play a bunch of creampuffs (East Carolina, e.g.), then strongarm the Miami city fathers into an Orange Bowl invitation so that their national championship game ended up being another home game. On the other hand, those national championships are in the books, creampuff sked and home field advantage notwithstanding.

Recently, though, I've had a taste of ND arrogance toward its alumni (long story, tangential to this thread, so I'll leave it be). I totally agree with the diarist's point that it's all about the benjamins - ND has increasingly viewed its alumni as ATM machines, to be grabbed by the ankles and shaken until every last coin exits their pockets. If that's how it treats its own, small wonder it does no better with other schools.

But if ND is going to maintain the pretext of being about more than just winning, more than just money, surely there can be some compromise? You want to play Rutgers, play 'em two in South Bend, one at Rutgers, and one in the Meadowlands on terms that make it worth RU's financial time to do the move. Not sure that's doable with UConn, if only because its home field probably holds way fewer than Rutgers's post-renovation stadium. But if you're going to take the moral high ground, you have to be willing to be fair even if it costs you.

(Oh, and note to Colin above: couldn't agree with you more about ND's aggressive pursuit of bad press; you're never going to stop criticism, but why court it?)

5/02/2008 01:00:00 PM  

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