It seems Notre Dame may be having a change of heart regarding their independence from college football and the NCAA. The consideration to give up their football independence came directly from Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick who was warned of potential "seismic change" in the conference alignment as a result of the programs shift in strategy. The business of college football is different now than it was in 1999, when Notre Dame was its own conference and didn't need a conference for support.
"I believe we're at a point right now where the changes could be relatively small or they could be seismic. The landscape could look completely different. What I have to do along with Father Jenkins is try and figure out where those pieces are falling and how the landscape is changing." Swarbrick said.
Change is on the horizon for the Fighting Irish as they test the waters of possibly moving to the Big Ten; the question however, is what those changes would mean for Notre Dame, and whether a change needs to be made sooner rather than later.
Here's the bottom line...Notre Dame isn't exactly in the upper echelon of college football's elite as they've been throughout much of their history. Since 1999, Notre Dame has seen one Bowl win in Hawaii, made questionable coaching decisions tarnishing their brand. Will the move cause them to lose their identity as the independent standard bearer of college football? Yes, but is it worth it, definitely! They currently enjoy the benefit of a TV deal with NBC, however, they could stand to benefit substantially financially by joining the Big Ten and the inevitable boon that would open up. The networks that would come knocking include ESPN or better, so the possibilities are endless. And not to mention their portion of any conference championship earnings from the BCS and Bowl payouts they would also be eligible for.
However, joining the Big Ten wouldn't just benefit their pockets, it will without a doubt improve their on-the-field performance as well. Notre Dame is an institution that prides itself on academic excellence. Because of that standard, their academic requirements were raised for potential players aspiring to play for the Fighting Irish to a higher grade point average than the other colleges in the NCAA. Entering into a conference would immediately lower that standard, as potential players only need the minimum grade point average to qualify for a team. So let's see: TV deal, Big Ten competition, teams that carry their own brand, and strong fan base. All equal eager and ultimately more talented recruits, with dreams of primetime games on national television. Firing Charlie Weis was the first step in a different direction that the Irish seem poised to enter into within the next year or two. The Big Ten stands to profit financially from expanding the league's current members and so does Notre Dame.
"You could invent a scenario that would force our hand. It's not hard to do. We just have to pay attention and stay on top of the game and talk to people." Swarbrick concludes.
It's my opinion that the scenario has already been created, all Notre Dame has to do is take full advantage and leave their independence behind.