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Notre Dame Football

6 Thoughts on a Thursday

July 7, 2022

For several decades now it’s been a love-hate relationship between the Big Ten and Notre Dame.

The B1G has loved the idea of adding Notre Dame to their conference. Notre Dame has hated the idea of losing football independence.

There’s probably still a lot of hate on Notre Dame’s end when there’s the suggestion of joining a conference, but if they were at least entertaining the thought before, they have to be actively planning for it to happen in the near future. With college football creeping towards the Power 2 after USC and UCLA bolted the Pac-12, Notre Dame is now set up as the Jenga piece holding this creaky tower together.

If they leave, the current structure of college football will crash down. It’s already teetering, which is why Notre Dame not joining the Big Ten feels like delaying the inevitable.

I think Notre Dame can be patient, but not too patient. They need to be ready to make a move at any time. When that move is made, it’s going to be sad for a lot of fans.

How much are things going to change for Notre Dame, though?

They will lose independence, but that was already partially gone with the ACC scheduling agreement. With USC joining the Big Ten, that would also mean that they have four traditional rivals within the conference (USC, Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue). If Stanford is added along with Notre Dame, that’s five.

The Big Ten won’t be the regional league it was previously either. Whether it’s adding more teams out west or grabbing some ACC programs like North Carolina or Virginia, it will be closer to an NFL conference than a college football one.

There’s this idea that what makes Notre Dame special in college football is the fact that they have remained as an Independent. The reality is that it’s only a tiny part of what makes them unique and losing that won’t change how they can recruit talent to come play for them. Being an Independent has no impact on the value of the degree or the quality of the people. The NBC contract doesn’t make them different anymore because every blue-blood program is on national television every week. When Lou Holtz said, “No explanation will suffice” when describing people who haven’t been to Notre Dame, he wasn’t talking about remaining an Independent in football.

While I don’t want to see the current structure in college football be completely blown up, I don’t believe Notre Dame football will be viewed any differently if it does. They are the last remaining big brand out there that every conference would want. The value of what Notre Dame is won’t decrease if they end up joining one of them like the Big Ten.

2. Notre Dame has always had leverage because of the strength of their brand, but now they have even more. They’re the only program left that can significantly move the needle with a media rights deal for a conference by joining. No one else outside of the Big Ten or SEC has that kind of value.

As ESPN’s Pete Thamel pointed out with his piece on realignment, it’s in the interest of the SEC for Notre Dame not to join the Big Ten. With the Irish on board, the B1G overtakes the SEC as the most valuable conference in many ways.

That’s one reason why I don’t see the SEC being actively aggressive when it comes to adding any ACC programs. If the ACC crumbles away, that’s the obvious out for Notre Dame to head to the Big Ten.

The Big Ten wants Notre Dame. The ACC would probably give anything to try and make Notre Dame a full-time football member of the conference. The remaining members of the Pac-12 and the Big 12 won’t want Notre Dame to make a move because that could mean that they get left out of the super conference party.

That is what you call leverage.

How can Jack Swarbrick use it to put Notre Dame into the best situation? Is it the Big Ten paying for the exit fees of leaving the ACC? Is it the ACC letting Notre Dame have their own individual television contract as well as a bigger piece of the media rights pie? Even that probably wouldn’t be enough for them to consider joining the ACC.

It’s not only about the money for Notre Dame, but also about positioning the program to always be involved in whatever format that will exist with the College Football Playoff.

Being the athletic director at Notre Dame is always a tough gig. Being the athletic director at this moment in time with all of the uncertainty in college football makes the job even more challenging. I think Swarbrick will navigate things pretty well, but we’ll see soon enough.

3. Here’s one thing I absolutely hate about all of this: it stinks for the little guy and the middle guy in college football.

If you’re a Notre Dame fan, maybe you don’t like that the Irish might have to join the Big Ten even though they’ll be rewarded with a boatload of money for doing so. Imagine being a Cincinnati fan and just getting the call up to the “big leagues” and becoming a Big 12 member, only to realize that you’re going to be left out of any super conference scenario. Or being any member of the Big 12, which is a lot closer to the AAC than it is to the SEC.

Or what about a program like Cal who isn’t anywhere close to competing for a CFP spot, but they still have fans who care deeply about the program and have plenty of people invested in them getting a bowl game. If the Pac-12 falls apart, they are stuck in limbo.

I really enjoyed this piece by Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel on rooting for the Pac-12 to be saved. I want more college football to watch and care about, not less.

Notre Dame fans will be fine no matter what happens. Us at ISD are going to be just fine covering Notre Dame as they continue competing at the highest level.

Two super conferences will lead to some programs being iced out and I think there will be less people who care about college football, even if the television ratings aren’t greatly affected. I’ll never root for that.

4. I know the realignment topic dominated this week and will still be on the minds of many until we start playing actual football games. I hope that the focus on that isn’t taking away from what Notre Dame is currently doing on the recruiting trail for every ISD member.

The thing that stands out most about the 19 recruits who are currently committed to Irish is that the ceiling for all of them is high. Not all of them are going to turn out to be impact players in college. Even if half of them are, that would be an awesome development for the program. The key is that the potential is there for just about all of them to become significant contributors.

They’re at an 87% blue-chip ratio with signees and commits in the 2022, 2023, and 2024 classes at the moment, so that means that there are going to be some guys who were ranked high who don’t end up playing a lot at Notre Dame over the next few years. But when a program is signing this much talent, there are going to be plenty of players who develop into stars and the depth should be better than it has been in a long time.

5. Jaden Greathouse‍ is going to commit on July 15th and Notre Dame is in a very good position to land him. If he’s in the boat at receiver with Braylon James‍ and Rico Flores Jr.‍, Notre Dame is going to be in the rare position where they can sell a 2023 quarterback on the receivers who are committed rather than the quarterback trying to get receivers to join him. (Ohio State is in the same spot, but with an even more impressive group at receiver in ‘23)

Program instability might cause some quarterbacks to look around this fall, but don’t discount the fact that the Irish are going to have better receivers to sell to prospective quarterbacks than every program outside of Ohio State for anyone who might be looking to flip to a better situation.

It’s something to keep in mind if CJ Carr‍ decides to not reclassify.

6. Since the news leaked out that USC and UCLA were making their B1G move, I still continued to see plenty of recruits commit to programs who aren’t likely to be involved in any kind of super conference or programs that could get frozen out of it.

Oregon is an interesting example because there is zero guarantee that they will get included in any future Big Ten or SEC despite their recent rise as a more national recruiting program. They landed a commitment from cornerback Caleb Presley‍ and are likely to land a commitment from a guy named Dante Moore‍. Both of those players could pretty much have their pick of where to go and I know there are factors that led them to choose the Ducks, but how is that decision going to look for them if Oregon is essentially relegated to what would be an FCS equivalent? It’s not out of the question that it could happen.

There’s Oregon and Washington and programs like that who are hoping to get an invite to the party and then there’s programs like NC State, Kansas State, Baylor, and Central Florida who no one would expect to get invited. Each of them landed 4-star recruits this week and they might have to savor the feeling because I can’t imagine they will be bringing in too many of them if they are playing in the second tier of college football.

Realignment hasn’t altered recruiting to a great extent yet, but there is no doubt that it’s headed in that direction if the competition gap is widened with the conferences and the money gap only becomes greater.

Even with a big NIL deal, is Rueben Owens‍, one of the top running backs in the country, going to stick with Louisville if the writing is on the wall that they’re going to be left out of the mix? What about Rodney Gallagher‍ and West Virginia?

There aren’t too many examples because the top programs in college football dominate when it comes to signing 4 and 5-stars, but the few who do end up taking some of those prospects away from the big dogs are going to land even less going forward. There will be some Travis Hunter to Jackson State exceptions mixed in, but they’ll be few and far between.

Notre Dame is clearly not affected in recruiting by any of these developments and anyone who is paying attention will know that the Irish are guaranteed to not be left out when things splinter off from the rest of the FBS. They are more likely to benefit from it with a recruit or two and maybe even a transfer down the line.

That’s not me saying Dante Moore will look to transfer from Oregon to Notre Dame if the Ducks aren’t included in the next round of realignment. It is me saying that would be pretty funny if that was to happen, though. Men’s Branded Heather Gray Throwback Helmet Shirt

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