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Conference conversation, continued…

Mar 11, 2010, 12:34 PM EDT

As you’d expect, the conference affiliation talk got everybody riled up, even though the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen accurately points out that it was an “over-reactive rehash of ND’s position on ND’s position.”

A few additional thoughts worth mentioning again:

* I’ve reached out to a few of the more educated Notre Dame fans that I know asking for some context on why people seem to run away and hide when even discussing the fact that Notre Dame might — eventually, depending on the actions of other schools — consider joining a conference in football. I’ve yet to have any one make the definitive argument against joining a conference. (At least one that I thought was definitive.) If you think you can make it, please shoot me an email and I’ll post the best one that I get.

* People talk about the inflexibility that comes with playing in a conference, but I’d argue that the 7-4-1 schedule that Notre Dame is trying to employ is much more rigid than just about any conference affiliation. People also mention the academic fit between the Irish and the Big Ten. Since when has Notre Dame allowed its affiliations on the athletic field dictate its agenda in the classroom? News yesterday that the Irish would have to “court” the Big Ten to join the conference made me chuckle, if only because there’s a zero percent chance that the Irish would come groveling to the powers-that-be in the Big Ten asking for acceptance. The Big Ten needs Notre Dame far more than Notre Dame needs the Big Ten.

* Last week, Brian Fremeau of BCFToys and did an interesting piece on the connectivity of Top 25 teams in college football. Taking data from 1989, Fremeau calculated that 52 games took place between teams ranked in the AP’s final poll, checking in at 8.9 percent, or roughly 1 in 11 games. During the 2009 season, even with the NCAA expanding from 106 to 120 teams, only 39 games were played between teams ranked at the end of the season, dropping to 5.5 percent, or roughly 1 in 19 games. In twenty years, the frequency of high-caliber matchups has dropped nearly 40 percent.

While Brian didn’t base this study as a case for conference affiliation, the perception of conference games being difficult and non-conference games being cakewalks certainly hurts the Irish. Just last summer, talking heads everywhere were criticizing Notre Dame’s schedule, when in reality it turned out to be a respectable 37th in the country, better than Texas, and every single team in the Big Ten except Minnesota.

* John Heisler, Notre Dame’s senior associate athletics director made an interesting observation on the media storm that came from Swarbrick’s comments. Here’s a piece of his Daily Dish.

If you are wondering how sports headlines come about, understand that sometimes it’s almost by accident. Take Tuesday, for example. Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly, in New York for a day of events with Notre Dame-connected groups, was visiting with a small group of New York-based sportswriters over coffee that morning at the Barking Dog cafĂ© on 34th Street. The event was designed as more of a “meet and greet” session for media who don’t make it to South Bend every day. Most of the conversation wasn’t headline news, but Kelly at one point was asked about his thoughts on conference affiliation. Meanwhile, Irish athletics director Jack Swarbrick just happened to stop by the session to listen – and he, too, was hit with the question about conferences. What Swarbrick said wasn’t necessarily new or groundbreaking – but it maybe involved more of a national assessment of the conference landscape than had been voiced. In any event, the nature and context of Swarbrick’s remarks immediately prompted the Associated Press to run a short item, followed by a more in-depth feature later in the day – and the New York Times wrote a full-blown piece that ended up the lead sports story at the top of the page in Wednesday’s print edition.

Can you imagine what the interest will be in Notre Dame football if they finally start playing consistent, winning football?

  1. jimbasil - Mar 11, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    The question shouldn’t be about not joining a conference. The question should be, why join a conference?.
    It appears you have turned this around to suit moving into a conference. There is no argument here about leaving a conference, it’s about joining a conference many of us are opposed to. If we weren’t against joining there wouldn’t be your need to blog about this.
    What does ND gain by joining a conference? (I see nothing, and Swarbrick has given no reasons other than the scary “seismic events” statement and the, “You figure out scenarios”.)
    What does a conference gain by ND joining them? (I see everything)
    Your post has the cart before the horse or rather ND in a conference wanting to leave a conference.
    What do you mean “I’ve reached out to a few of the more educated Notre Dame fans that I know”.
    Please inform us as to how joining a conference makes ND more flexible.
    Please inform us as to how ND will be able to form their desired schedule or 7 – 4 – 1 should they join a conference. Also, please inform us as to why ND designing their own schedule isn’t flexibility.
    What does your posting of BCFToys research have to do with ND footballs independence?
    How is it ND fans won’t complain about a better schedule once isolated in a conference, especially should it be the Big East or the ACC? Or is it the Appalachian State vs ND games you are looking forward to? How about Charleston Southern games or even The Citadel?
    I have to say Keith, you are coming across as a shill for someone in this. Could the BT or BE have influence on your writing this.
    It appears you have ND in a conference.

  2. TLNDMA - Mar 11, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    I agree that Keith is putting the cart before the horse, but easy on the conspiracy accussations. Also, Keith with D1 expanding, it makes sense that the number of games involving top 25 teams playing each other would go down percentage wise.
    With ESPN extolling the SEC as the cat’s meow of collge football it’s no wonder people’s opinion of everyone else’s schedule is skewed. You would hardly know that doormats like Vandy, Kentucky, Miss. St., Ole Miss.(usually) and So. Carolina(usually) were in that conference.

  3. Keith Arnold - Mar 11, 2010 at 3:41 PM

    Jim, were you channeling your inner RobertG with all those questions? I’m not a proponent of change, I’m merely pointing out that if I’m a Notre Dame fan, I’d rather have an athletic director monitoring the landscape of college football, instead of resting on Notre Dame’s (deteriorating) laurels.
    While nobody wants to say it, ESPN’s power and influence, especially now that it will televise the BCS games, is growing significantly, and the money they’ve spent to televise games in the Big Ten and the SEC, have completely changed the economics of college football. When portions of football teams have 8 figure payouts that makes things a little bit different. And while ND has a TV contract and is a private institution, not all schools can say the same.
    If ND finds itself at a huge disadvantage revenues wise playing an independent schedule, they’ll eventually make the change, whether people like it or not.

  4. jimbasil - Mar 11, 2010 at 5:23 PM

    I’m not really sure what TLNDMA is talking about. I don’t know of any conspiracy going on and am not suggesting one is. I simply point out Swarbrick used the phrase “seismic…” and suddenly we’re to believe college football has suffered a major quake.
    I’m not really sure why ESPN’s financial powers are the draw here Keith. I’m not going to doubt they have money and use it.
    My only question is, why would ND be effected should the Big Ten, Big East or ACC come calling or wish to expand?
    You pointed out ND’s NBC contract is smaller in revenue to the Big Ten’s. You also pointed out ND makes 47% less money on TV than does any team in the Big Ten in TV revenue. You missed pointing out ND’s contract is for a certain number of games not a full slate making your numbers incorrect. ND plays all of its games on TV as far as I know. I’m sure they are paid for their other games too. ND makes about the same amount as all the Big Ten teams and ND has Independence something the others do not, as per Swarbrick about a month ago.
    In regard to my earlier post, please discuss the inflexibility of ND’s schedule and the allure of a free and flexible Big Ten schedule or BE/ACC.
    Is ND in danger of losing its NBC contract? There seems to be bunches of thought on this without bunches of facts (zero facts from what I’ve found); at least none to support a move to a conference. This in addition to the bunches of boogiemen in the closet promises. This gloomy forecast of bad times for ND if he doesn’t act fast. (on a side note, just as an analogy of dire. The Iraq invasion. I seem to remember the need to act quickly, because they’re coming.)
    I don’t know who Robert G. is.

  5. Sgt. Moon - Mar 11, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    Keith, that was some shot you took at Jim,(were you channeling your inner RobertG with all those questions). Wheteher you agree or disagree with Jim, at least his questions were lucid, he didn’t put them in numerical order and he didn’t call anyone a criminal or threaten anyone with “civil litigation”.
    Notre Dame doesn’t need to join a conference. Just put a winning team on the field. That will solve any questions or problems regarding TV contracts and money.
    Notre Dame critics always complain about ND having too soft of a schedule. Some of the teams such as Navy go back over eighty years when both teams were powerhouses. Should you drop traditional teams from your schedule because they are not very good anymore. And yes. I am aware of the results of the last couple of ND/Navy games.
    The point I am trying to make is you don’t have to mess with tradition.
    All of the teams ranked in the top 10 in the BCS polls have some “easy” team on their schedule

  6. TLNDMA - Mar 11, 2010 at 8:36 PM

    “Keith you are coming across as a shill for someone” That’s what I’m talking about.

  7. jimbasil - Mar 11, 2010 at 9:30 PM

    Well, not meant in a conspiratorial way. Just noting his twist on things gives a certain appearance is all.
    I think what I dislike about most what has transpired is the, no fact, reality in this. We have a reality generated by comments like “You can each come up with a scenario that would force our hand.” and Seismic ….” with no facts, just the fright campaign. Why will Swarbrick not come out and say what he means. Is ND in peril or not. Because other than real true peril, there is no need for ND to conference it up.(Unless Swarbrick wishes a super conference of ND, Bamma, Texas, Penn st., Fl, USC, Okla and Boise st.)
    At this point its all conjecture that has been sponsored by Swarbrick and escalated by misinformation. Knowledgeable people handing out tidbits of what they think they know or don’t know as if it were gospel, stating or restating the fear campaign. Even here where information is usually spot on, misses the mark with no facts available.
    Sorry Keith. This is a great place for info, and you’re the main reason for it. I’m not trying to pick on you. Peace.

  8. tony - Mar 11, 2010 at 10:34 PM

    I think that if Swarbrick is even considering changing the independent label he should get the boot, as well as you as a writer for trying to justify it. One of the things that makes ND’s legacy and tradition so rich is its Independent status. Espn will be biased no matter what agaisnt ND, always have been.

  9. Pvbinct - Mar 11, 2010 at 11:24 PM

    I think the bigger question that has to get addressed is what is the “number” that will move ND from independence to a conference. You are selling a lot of the history and identity of the program when you become “regionalized” in a conference. It will have a huge impact on everyone’s perceptions of ND and no doubt national interest and giving.
    So the question is, what is it worth? How many pieces of silver will get Swarbrick and Co. to sell ND football to a conference.

  10. joe from Dublin - Mar 12, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    I hate to see ND lose its independence but it is a little like when the US gained its independence. Southern states like Georgia and the Carolinas were not as eager to form a new nation as it was to their financial detriment but they knew the world had changed. In ND’s world there are only two other major independents in Navy and Army. It is no longer a world with independents in the 80’s like FSU, Penn State, etc… where they can demand what they want. The NCAA unfortunately now has powers that are unprescedented in college football. They can force ND’s hand. As much as I want ND to be independent, imagine ND against the a Big Ten annual conference schedule which contrary to belief is one where Ohio State, Penn St and Michigan do not play each other every year. Everyone forgets about Indiana, Illinois, Minny, etc… In addition, is there a basketball team in the Big Ten that could challenge ND or the majority of the Big East? Dont see it.

  11. ourlady$ - Mar 12, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    I’m no expert on this, but I know for sure that Jack Swarbrick is privied to information that we lay people are not. I believe that he would not put Notre Dame in a position where he knew it would not benefit the program or Notre Dame as a whole.
    One thing for sure is that I think college football in the United States has not seen this much success in the last few years then it has since the 50’s (and the NFL was practically non existent then.) Now I’m talking from a Canadian perspective ( so what do I know.) As for consistent winning football…’s coming!

  12. shazamrock - Mar 12, 2010 at 8:31 AM

    A few years back I read a national poll that asked the question:
    In college football, who would you consider as America’s Team?
    The overwhelming responce was the University of Notre Dame.
    What is it that makes ND a world renowed University?
    We have seen the team play games at such places as Ireland, Hawaii,
    Washington State, California, Colorado, Boston, New York, & Florida.
    The college football world needs a place like ND if for no other reason than the diversity it offers to the student athlete. It also is a visiable link to our college football past. When the founding fathers of our great universitys’ decided that sports and athletics were good for developing a well rounded student. They saw sports, (and in this case football) as a tool that would teach our young people values such as sportsmanship, hard work, dedication, team work, pride, and good health. Notre Dame Football, as an Independent, has held true to these values these many long years.
    Would joining a conference diminish the way The American public percieves ND and what it stand for?
    I always related Independance with Freedom. Nobody likes to loose their freedom.

  13. John in Chicago - Mar 12, 2010 at 5:05 PM

    Joe – Big Ten Basketball not being able to compete against ND basketball? Are you kidding? Maybe you should check your facts as to how the Big Ten’s top-tier have fared in the tourney as compared to ND?

  14. John in Chicago - Mar 12, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    Please explain to the rest of us why the Big Ten needs ND – just another has been with fans living in the past. Who would gain more from the increase in total revenue – obviously ND. Their continued lackluster performance will eat into their revenues and they will be increasingly irrelevant in the national landscape.

  15. Sgt. Moon - Mar 12, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    Shaz, glad to see you sticking around. I sent you a reply to your previous post. It should be in the article regarding defensive changes. (3-4 Defense)

  16. Sgt. Moon - Mar 12, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    Shaz, glad to see you sticking around. I sent you a reply to your previous post. It should be in the article regarding defensive changes. (3-4 Defense)

  17. Art Vandelay - Mar 12, 2010 at 8:35 PM

    Notre Dame is a national product with national appeal because of two things: being Catholic and having an “Irish” identity. There are a lot of Catholic schools throughout the US that do not field football teams and students of those institutions and their alumni have traditionally sided with and identified with Notre Dame, one of the only Catholic schools that has traditionally played quality Div I football. I can remember my high school nuns making us pray that ND would win on Saturday. Also, the Irish identity is a huge element of their appeal. You can go into an Irish pub in any state on an autumn Saturday and ND is either on the TV or there’s a crowd hanging around waiting for the game to start. There are fraternal organizations like the A.O.H. or the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick whose members live and die for Irish football, having no other connection to the University. You are likely to see ND gear being worn from Maine to Calif, while most other programs have more of a regional following. NBC will always have the ratings because of these factors, even in a down year like 2008. These are 2 elements that make ND very unique. Think about it, if I wasn’t an alumnus of a school, why would I follow their program? Maybe because I live in the same state or I like their team colors or logo or some equally absurd reason. But ND has legions of fans who have never even stepped on their campus. ND does not need to join a conference. If NBC wants out of their TV contract, I’m sure CBS, Fox or ABC/ESPN would come calling right away. I like the traditional rivalries, the history behind why we play Navy every year and I even like the off-site home games which recall Rockne’s barnstorming days. You know, when ND wanted in on the Big 10 years ago, they were given the big F U by that conference. Its time we returned the favor when the Big 10 comes calling.

  18. irishfan1123 - Mar 12, 2010 at 9:31 PM

    I think we need to stop with this “Big Ten needs ND more” and “ND needs Big Ten more.” The truth is, neither side REALLY needs the other, but both sides would benefit tremendously from the other. Notre Dame would gain revenue, and the Big Ten would gain an even bigger national audience and would surely increase its viewership more than any other expansion member could pull in (increasing revenue by a great deal).
    That being said, I don’t think Notre Dame needs to join a conference right now. Notre Dame still has a strong national following, and if Notre Dame gets better (fingers crossed), NBC will have an incentive to extend the contract more.
    Likewise, the Big Ten doesn’t need Notre Dame to join. The big prize for the Big Ten right now is the conference championship game, to able to boost the rankings of the 2 best teams in the Big Ten that year. Currently, during “conference championship week,” the Big Ten gets left out of a final rankings boost that the SEC and the Big 12 champions enjoy every year, which can have BCS Championship implications. Right now, any team would do for the Big Ten.
    joe from dublin,
    My initial reaction about Big Ten basketball was the same as yours, that it is weak and no team from the Big Ten could hang with the Big East. But I can name 3 teams that could hang quite well with the Big East: Purdue, Ohio State, and Michigan State.
    I think it illustrates just how if you hear something enough times, you begin to believe it:
    Big Ten basketball is weak: As we see, that’s not true with Purdue, Michigan State, and Ohio State.
    ND Football schedules weak schools like Sisters of the Poor: ND’s strength of schedule was 37th, good enough to beat every Big Ten members SOS except for Minnesota (26th).
    The list could go on.

  19. irishfan1123 - Mar 12, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    Keith (or anyone else who could give an answer), hypothetical question:
    IF Notre Dame did join the Big Ten, what would happen to the games that Notre Dame already has scheduled for the 2011-2013 seasons?
    The schedules look pretty full already, would we have to drop games? Would we wait until 2014 to actually start playing in the Big Ten (highly unlikely I imagine)?

  20. JNJ - Mar 13, 2010 at 6:41 AM

    Seems to me that ND is almost already half in the Big10. playing at least 3 games every year. At one point we used to always play Indiana. So we play what-anther 2 Big 10 teams–that leaves 7 games we can play anywhere.
    I think I read that NBC bought out by a cable company–so that contract might be nullified and then the games become pay for view.
    Woody Hayes refused to play ND–would sure like to see us smack OSU around every year.

  21. Jake - Mar 13, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    Everyone makes good points, good arguments and for the most part used sound reasoning.
    My comments is short and simple (some say like me).
    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  22. robertg - Mar 14, 2010 at 6:43 PM

    1. we congratulate brady quinn on being traded to the denver broncos, a team with a real future, unlike cleveland, and with good wrs and tes, unlike cleveland.
    2. brady gets to play again with ot ryan harris and safety david bruton. addition, brady’s head coach spent time coaching for the new england patriots and uses the patriots’ offensive systems and playbooks which charlie and his staff used to train brady and with which brady excelled.
    4. many nfl careers have been ruined by getting stuck with dysfunctional teams like cleveland.
    5. we are certain that the mighty quinn will be one of the nfl’s truly great qbs for many seasons at denver.
    6. with respect to the notre dame conference issues, the comments are nice.
    7. however, if you look at swarbrick’s statements to the press and the histories of purcell, swarbrick, and jenkins, you will find that they consider themselves 3 dictators who make all decisions about notre dame football.
    8.according to swarbrick, swarbrick and jenkins( obviously with purcell involved) will make these decisions all by themselves, without consulting with anyone in the notre dame community.
    9. purcell, swarbrick, and jenkins do not care at all what anyone in the notre dame community thinks about such issues or about the facts, laws, and notre dame’s internal governing rules.
    10. they will continue to operate in this same manner until someone hauls them into the civil courts.
    11. our sources inform us that joining a conference in football is a decision already made by purcell, swarbrick, and jenkins, as part of the package deal involving the illegal firings and charlie and his staff and the illegal hirings of kelly and his staff.
    12. whether that conference is the big east or the big 10( which is run by jim delany( swarbrick’s close buddy and a major con artist) or the big east conference, where kelly has all of those relationships with the dishonest big east officials is an issue that remains open bit since switches from the big east conference to the big 10 conference in football may leave the big east conference with no future at in football.
    GO IRISH!!!

  23. robertg - Mar 14, 2010 at 10:56 PM

    1. we congratulate every student athlete on notre dame’s fine mens’ basketball team and coach brey and his staff for playing their way into march madness after being written off as dead for the big dance by the usual suspects in the media, including the so called notre dame fan sites.
    2. according to the fraudulent data posted online by blue and gold and other so called notre dame fan sites, coach brey and his staff were already fired by purcell, swarbrick, and jenkins.
    3. because of the outstanding efforts of notre dame’s student athletes and coach brey and his staff and certain information posted by us, those guaranteed firings of coach brey and his staff will not be taking place.
    4. of course, while officiating in basketball is certainly not honest. the levels of dishonset officiating and failure to enforce rules in college basketball have not yet come even close to the levels reached in college football officiating during the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
    5. the notre dame women will also be dancing this march, although the brackets have yet to be announced.
    6. as usual, the notre dame mens’ and womens’ fencing teams are right in the thick of this season’s national championship race.
    7. not being a very high revenue producing sport, college fencing has not yet attracted the types of corruption which football and basketball have.
    8. in addition, because fencing is also an olympic sport, officiating in fencing already incorporates most of the 21st century high tech officiating systems that make dishonest officiating almost impossible.
    9. swarbrick claims to be evaluating every coach in every notre dame sports every single season based on some secret experstise and criteria.
    10. who is currently evaulating purcell, swarbrick, and jenkins?
    11. based on the facts available to us, no one in the notre dame community has any say whatsover in operations of purcell, swarbrick, and jenkins.
    12. after we finish with the systemic problems in college football and college sports at the ncaa, conference, and schools that cheat levels in the civil courts, we will get to the problems within notre dame.
    13. however, there are signs that certain notre dame alums will take care of those problems within notre dame before we get around to notre dame.
    14. it certainly would be preferable for notre dame if notre dame’s own alums took care of those problems within notre dame before we get there.
    15. as they know, we will be happy to provide them with plenty of evidence and other high tech assistance.
    GO IRISH!!!

  24. Shazamrock - Mar 15, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    Now there is talk of forming a 16 team “Mega-conference”. The monies and dollar figures that would be generated would be through the roof. The 2 main conferences, the SEC and the Big 12 continue to dominate the BCS. They have the unfair advantage of playing a conference championship at the end of the year when BCS rankings are at a premium. The NCAA needs to level the playing field for all teams and conferences. They keep coming up with new ways to generate larger sums of revenue. With all this money being generated by 18 to 21 year olds it’s becoming more about big business and less about collegent values and the student athlete. What do these kids get?
    I know, most will say a college education. That’s true for places like ND, Stanford, Northwesten, Duke, and a few others that offer a “quality” education. Just seems like a lot of people stand to make tons of money off a bunch of 18 and 19 yr olds. Perhaps if each student athlete who makes his football team should recieve a profit sharing check from the NCAA based on Acedemic achevement, staying out of trouble on and off the field, graduation, chairity participation, and community service. Maybe something like that would reduce some of the trash talking, fighting, and unsportsmenship we see way too much of. Maybe it would help to deduce some of these growning off field issues, arrests, and suspensions. Maybe it will prompt some of these kids to stay in school, finish their education, give back to the community, and stay out of trouble. Wouldn’t that be better for everyone involved and not just the corporate Big-Wigs who cash in year after year?
    Just a thought.

  25. irishfan1123 - Mar 15, 2010 at 9:59 PM

    I don’t agree with profit sharing, the free education/room/meals is enough. But I do applaud you for coming up with a payment system based on qualifications such as academic achievement and community service. The other times I’ve heard of profit sharing, it was always about production on the field.
    I think perhaps a better solution would be for the NFL to establish a minor league. That would allow those who go to the traditional “football factories” to just be able to go play football for a minor league team, and as RobertG puts it, have zero academic obligations. Then, those who actually want to go to college and play football can do that, and those who just want to play football can do that too. This would probably result in less talent in college football, but if the goal of the NCAA is to have actual student athletes, a minor league could be a step forward.

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