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Notre Dame and the College Football Conference Re-Alignment

By: Aaron X

Original Date: 8/16/22

Hello sports fans, and welcome back to the IE Sports Radio blog. In recent weeks, college football’s latest bombshell was dropped when it was announced that USC and UCLA would join the Big Ten Conference in the 2024 season. This is the latest development in the arms race between the Big Ten and the SEC for college football conference supremacy. We fans have been anxiously waiting for the next shoe to drop, but as of yet, there are no new announcements.

What moves are anticipated? Well, after the announcement, all eyes turned towards South Bend, Indiana. The world was watching to see if Notre Dame would finally join a conference and shed its traditional independent status. Thus far, it has not happened. Also, fans waited to see if the Big Ten would also nab Oregon and Washington to further extend its West Coast influence.These moves were the reactive chess moves to the SEC pilfering Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12. Both conferences are attempting to weaken the other conference, expand its geographic television revenue base, and increase arguments for more teams (from their own conference) to gain entrance into an expanded College Football Playoff.

The first report is that Notre Dame is resistant to joining the Big Ten. There are multiple reasons for this reluctance. One, Fighting Irish traditionalists are apt to hold on to historical independence. They believe that this sets ND apart from other programs, and to change would tarnish its “national brand.” Second, and probably the biggest driving factor, is money. Notre Dame has an exclusive contract with NBC to air its games, and the school is disinterested in sharing that pot of gold. Finally, ND feels that joining a conference with the lowly Indiana Hoosiers and Rutgers Scarlet Knights further depreciates its self-perceived national brand.

There is merit to ND’s position, but it likely only delays the inevitable. With the expansion of the CFP, and more emphasis placed upon winning a conference championship to gain entry, ND’s opportunities are limited. They will be reliant wholly upon the CFP selection committee for an at-large bid with no chance of an automatic qualifier. Additionally, there is no prohibition against ND from contracting with a conference like the Big Ten to garner more television revenue. Texas did this with the Big 12, and given ND’s current status, there is not a large difference.

Regardless, there will be resistance to change from the Golden Domers. Editorializing a bit, one cannot help but see that the CFP is changing, and possibly not for the better. Revenue and money have always been, and always will be, important driving factors in athletics. However, is this conference realignment good for the fan, and the product as a whole? At this point, it is unknown. Traditional rivalry games, which are the heart and soul of College Football, are slowly being destroyed. For example, Nebraska and Colorado are currently irrelevant in terms of winning a national championship. But neither team was irrelevant to their fans on that special weekend in Lincoln and Boulder on Rivalry Saturday. This is a micro-example, but something is being lost.

Geographic rivalries, which are the lifeblood of CFB, are also being ruined. Does anyone really think that fan bases in Los Angeles or West Lafayette are going to get fired up (or travel to and from) for a USC-Purdue tilt? Maybe, and it appears we are going to find out. Finally, these moves are so football-focused that they will cause issues for less revenue driven sports having to travel all across the country, across multiple time zones (Rutgers vs. UCLA). The pretense that schools cared for the academic portion of their student-athletes has completely been abandoned.

Perhaps it is just the traditionalist “get off my lawn” mentality I have admittedly developed over the years. The college football landscape is changing. I worry it is not for the better, and that some of these moves are shortsighted. The jury is still out. If I’m going to enjoy the game, I must change – not the other way around. Let the debates continue and the games begin. I’ll be watching…for now. Tune in to the Crossroad Pod hosted by yours truly, Aaron X., on Saturdays at 11am EST/8am PST. Also check out the many awesome shows we have here at IESR. Shout-out to our patreon supporters and all those fans that continue to support our network. Thank you for reading, and we will see you next time on IE Sports Radio; your direct feed for ALL that is sports.

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