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Notre Dame Football

Former Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn Discusses Conference Realignment

July 2, 2022

UCLA and USC shocked the world of college athletics on Thursday by joining the Big 10. It makes sense on several levels, but it also sets up the possibility for significant change across college sports. 

It certainly looks like Notre Dame will have to weigh its options as the Irish could hold the keys to reshaping college athletics moving forward. 

Former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn joined CBS HQ and felt the Fighting Irish are in a good position as it’s a coveted institution academically and athletically.

"I think you can make a case both the fact they would be the most desired free agent if you will - if you want to call them that because they're an independent,” stated Quinn in CBS. “Or potentially, they could be looking at the landscape changing before their eyes and they've got to make a decision whether they want to remain independent." 

Money is the center of the discussion as football drives TV money and there is a nice chunk of change available if Notre Dame were to join a conference. Notre Dame currently plays five ACC games in football and has conference ties to the ACC and Big 10 in hockey. 

The trick is the grant of rights the ACC has with ESPN, which doesn’t end until 2036, so if Clemson or Miami wanted to leave, it’s quite expensive. Notre Dame also has its contract with NBC, which ends much sooner, so it doesn’t appear that would be a potential issue as of today. 

“The ACC had to beg ESPN to take them and basically have the grant of rights for that long of a period of time,” Quinn said. “That's not the deal for Notre Dame because they have their deal for their home games with NBC Sports and that deal comes up sooner. There is probably the ability for Notre Dame, if they want to, to opt-out of their agreement with NBC Sports potentially early - I don't know that for a fact, I'm speculating here, or wait till it comes up in I think 2025.” 

If Notre Dame were to opt-out, the payday would be significantly larger and benefit the university more than the current deal with NBC. 

"If that's the case, now you're looking at other partners, potentially FOX, or whoever else would be bidding on you,” explained Quinn. “You also have the potential of saying why not just join a conference then instead of trying to put together this East Coast to West Coast schedule like we've done for a long time as an independent. We already have the inventory to do that within the Big 10 and by the way, we're making $70+ million a year from that TV rights deal, which would dwarf what they're making right now between their cut from the ACC as well as what they're getting from NBC Sports.”

Both the Big 10 and SEC would want Notre Dame, so it’s a good position to be in at the end of the day as it relates to options, but the other piece to the puzzle is Notre Dame has to figure out if it can compete to win championships if it doesn’t join a superconference.

"I'm sure they're calling Notre Dame, but I'm sure Notre Dame is sitting there listening to wondering if this is going to turn into two superconferences and if it does, are we going to be on the outside looking in,” stated Quinn. “Maybe it's time to start thinking about joining a conference. Geographically speaking and given their history with scheduling, it makes the most sense probably to join a conference like the Big 10.

"The ACC, SEC geographically makes sense for those two to work together. Here's the reality. There is such a discrepancy between what the SEC is making and what the Big 10 will be making in comparison to the PAC12, ACC and Big 12. It just is what it is.” 

Another interesting aspect is the fact Oregon and Washington are getting an up-close look at the power of Notre Dame as the Big 10 and SEC seem to be waiting to see what Jack Swarbrick and company decide. 

"Money is really what is all these schools and brands are really looking for,” Quinn stated. “The question is, which ones do the SEC and Big 10 want? If they really wanted Oregon and Washington, they would have asked them the first time around. It wouldn't just be USC and UCLA. It would be USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington. 

"It really now becomes what the rest of some of these schools in the PAC12, ACC when you're talking about what Florida State and Miami want to do. I don't see there being room for a third super conference. I think this will end up being two super conferences very similar to how we look at the NFL with the NFC and AFC. Then they'll playoff for a Super Bowl and, in this case, a playoff for a National Championship in the future." 

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