Three weeks ago, an impromptu media session with Jack Swarbrick in New York got plenty of people talking about Notre Dame and its football independence. Playing devil’s advocate, I countered some of Mike Coffey’s well-reasoned points about saying no to joining a conference.
- Notre Dame must remain independent for the sake of separating ND
from the interest of outside force, namely a conference, and
particularly a conference that strives to affect the research and
education mission of its member institutions.
- Notre Dame must remain independent for the sake of ensuring that ND
maintains its national identity, which conference membership would
Personally, I agree with the missives set by the guys, and I think most people both inside and outside the university probably do as well.
While the storm has eventually calmed, Jack Swarbrick took some time during the Final Four attempting to clarify his statements.
From USA Today:
Swarbrick says remarks he made in New York last
month were incorrectly interpreted. Asked then about staying
independent, he said a drastic shift in the college athletic landscape
could prompt him and the university’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins,
to “evaluate the landscape.”
That, Swarbrick insists now, was not a signal
that Notre Dame is more open to finding a home for football in the Big
Ten or any other league.
“The only things that could make it happen are
the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval
and impact a lot more (schools) than Notre Dame,” he says. “You wind up
with only three conferences. You wind up with two tiers of conferences.
Now, all of a sudden, it’s not three divisions in college; it’s four.
It’s the big change.
“I don’t see that happening.”
Alluding in part to a football television
contract with NBC that runs through 2015, Swarbrick says, “I really do
believe strongly that we’re sort of uniquely positioned to continue to
chart our own course.”
If we’ve seen anything in the past few years, it’s that college football’s popularity has seen the value of college football’s prestige properties — the SEC, the Big Ten — increase dramatically. With ESPN and the Big Ten Network deriving unseen revenues for universities public and private, it only makes sense that other schools will explore any option that helps their school collect some of the new found riches.
Notre Dame — regardless of how poorly they’ve played over the last 20 years — still retains its blue-chip value among college football programs, and there’s no reason to think that the Irish’s value hasn’t appreciated with the rest of college football. While Notre Dame’s TV contract with NBC runs until 2015, a football program on the rise behind Brian Kelly could be far more valuable come contract time than anything another conference could offer.