I can not say tat I know exactly what the Big Ten says to other universities who may be interested in joining the conference, but I imagine the conversation with Notre Dame goes something along the lines of telling them the Big Ten is good enough for half the conference to schedule for out of conference games but until the Irish show why they are worthy of Big Ten membership then there will be no discussion.
Notre Dame once was on the verge of joining the Big Ten, giving the conference 12 teams to be eligible for a conference championship game. But at the stroke of midnight the Irish pulled out of the plan and decided to remain a football independent while the rest of the athletic department was still getting in the flow of competition in the Big East. The main reason at the time was clear; Notre Dame stood to make much more money as a football independent with an exclusive contract with NBC and the allure of not having to split bowl money with the rest of their prospective conference members.
But times have changed.
That was before the Big Ten launched their own network and brought it into homes all across the Big Ten’s footprint, which just so happens covers South Bend, Indiana. that was before the Big Ten and ESPN negotiated a television package that dwarfs Notre Dame’s contract with NBC. And while we are talking about money take a moment to think about the bowl money that Notre Dame has missed out on.
Both the Big Ten and Notre Dame have had less than stellar post season records over the past decade, but when you add up all of the games that the Big Ten has played in and calculated how much money each Big Ten school receives because of it, you can only imagine how much richer Notre Dame would be today if they had sucked up their tradition and aligned with the most powerful conference in their own region. Notre Dame has played in six bowl games since 2003 and the Big Ten has received paychecks from bowl games 45 times in the same time frame. That is a lot of money to be shared.
At this stage of the game perhaps Notre Dame officials should be taking a hard look at where they stand in the grand scheme of college football.
But the Big Ten should not be quick to rule out the Irish this time around either, even if they do still have bitter feelings about Notre Dame chucking their initial invitation to the side previously. Even if it is just to keep the welcome mat out for Notre Dame it could be worth it. It is likely that if and when the Big Ten expands it will be to 12 schools, and the Irish figure to not even be a top five finalist for the 12th school. But if the Big Ten flirts with increasing to 14, then Notre Dame should rush to the Big Ten’s offices to plead to join. Despite the down television numbers and on-field results compared to the Big Ten, there is no denying the power that Notre Dame brings in terms of alumni all over the country. Why else would Notre Dame work out deals to play neutral site games in Texas (vs. Washington State) and in New York (vs. Army)? Irish fans are everywhere.
The NBC contract may not be an end of the line for Notre Dame heading to the Big Ten, but the conference would likely view the inability to broaden their horizons in the television market with Notre Dame. With the Big Ten Network in play the goal is to bring the conference’s self-run network into as many homes as possible. Already with two schools in the Hoosier State, Notre Dame looks less attractive than other schools like Nebraska, Syracuse, Rutgers…and Texas.
Geographically, academically and traditionally speaking, Notre Dame and the Big Ten are made for each other. Everything about Notre Dame says they are a Big Ten team, yet to this day they remain a long shot.
It may be an old topic, but feel free to let me know what you think about the idea of Notre Dame joining the Big Ten. I also welcome your thoughts on all of the Big Ten (and PAC 10) expansion possibilities.
For the latest college football discussion be sure to subscribe for updates via e-mail up above. Just click on the Subscribe button at the top of this post! Also be sure to follow Kevin on Twitter and Google Buzz become a fan on Facebook!
Follow me on Twitter
College Football Examiner on Facebook