|Notre Dame Stadium|
If the Big Ten Conference is truly looking to court more schools in their expansion quest to 16 members, Notre Dame has to be at the top of the list.
In fact, there should be no expansion at all if it doesn't involve the Irish coming on board.
I mean, it is such a natural fit, and whether we want to "if" and "but" this thing to death, the bottom line is ... the Irish belong in the Big Ten. I know it, you know it, Rudy knows it, his childhood pal Pete, D-Bob, Father Cavanaugh at the rectory, even his ex-girlfriend who cheated on (Rudy) with his brother ... we all know it.
So why fight it?
The Irish belong in the ACC about as much as San Diego State belongs in the Big East. Seriously, there are four planets closer to the east coast than San Diego State and Notre Dame. It's just unnatural.
Real fans envision the Irish playing Michigan not Duke, Michigan State not Georgia Tech, Ohio State not N.C. State, Penn State not Wake Forest. (Yes, this is all about football ... save the hoops talk for those on Tobacco Road.)
The reasons for the Irish not joining are just unacceptable. The reasons for them being a part of the expansion makes all the sense in the world.
First, from a geographical standpoint, they reside perfectly in the heart of the Big Ten. There are eight Big Ten schools within 250 miles of South Bend, including four inside a 150-mile radius.
The closest school to Notre Dame in the ACC? Virginia Tech ... 645 miles away.
Secondly, being an independent in football is eventually going to hurt Notre Dame, as the Big Ten, SEC, PAC-12 and BIG 12 forge toward becoming super (duper) conferences. In-conference play will become more demanding on these schools, so the last thing the elite teams in those respective leagues are going to do is schedule Notre Dame on their out-of-conference docket.
I mean, there has to be some cream puffs on the schedule somewhere, especially when you will only be playing two outside your gargantuan league.
Third, the Irish are an historic football program. They should be in a league with other traditional powers. The Big Ten is where it's at according to the New York Times, as the top three most popular football teams — Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State — reside there. Notre Dame was fourth on the list, so again, it's a match made in heaven.
Now, the biggest hitch in the whole process of adding Notre Dame is the Irish's exclusive television contract with NBC. However, I don't see where this would be such a big problem. There's plenty of money and marketing rights to go around ...
The Irish could still keep their home games with NBC, because of those seven seasonal contests, five would be against Big Ten opponents — meaning the conference would be getting a fat cut of the revenue. For the remaining five away games, well, they would be aired on the Big Ten Network or ESPN/ABC, each of which gives both the conference and Notre Dame huge revenue dollars.
The Irish would be making money off the conference, just as the rest of schools do, and the Big Ten would cash in on the licensing of Notre Dame. Everyone wins!
The marriage of the Irish and Big Ten should happen. It must happen. It better happen.
I just can't stomach the Rutgers and Marylands of the world pulling this once prestigious conference down into the bowels of college football hell where mid-majors lurk.